Qatar reached the quarter-finals of the 2021 World Handball Championship Monday after they defeated Argentina 26-25 and Denmark beat Croatia 38-26.
Qatar's Rafael Capote scored the decisive goal 27 seconds from time as Qatar secured a thrilling 26-25 victory over Argentina.
Qatar's left back Rafael Capote celebrates a goal during the 2021 World Men's handball Championship match against Argentina
After losing to Denmark earlier, Qatar bounced back with a resounding win over Bahrain two days ago, with Monday’s win against Argentina further boosting their chances of progress.
Monday’s match saw fortunes fluctuate every few minutes as the evenly-matched teams struggled to establish supremacy.
Frankis Marzo top-scored with eight goals for Qatar while Capote and Ahmed Madadi netted six each.
Qatar coach Valero Rivera shouts instructions to his players
“I am really proud of the boys who stuck to their plans and executed them perfectly,” said Qatar coach Valero Rivera.
“Considering the struggles we went through with injuries what the team has achieved is simply phenomenal,” the Spaniard added.
Argentina enjoyed a better start and were up 5:3 by the 10th minute. The South American team did a good job in defence and Leonel Maciel made a few saves, while line player Lucas Moscariello led the way in attack.
Qatar players celebrate
Then things only got better for the ‘Gladiators’, who used a 4:0 run to lead 9:3, and by minute 18 had even increased the gap to seven goals (11:4).
But Qatar did not give up and sorted out their defence, and when they cut the deficit to 8:12, Argentina’s coach Manolo Cadenas called for a time-out.
It was of little help, though, as his team were restricted to just one goal in the last ten minutes of the first half. Qatar’s captain Ahmad Madadi scored five goals from the 7m line before the break and helped his team to close the gap to 12:13.
Frankis Marzo drew level early in the first half, but then Argentina reclaimed the initiative and pulled away (19:15).
However, the South Americans were unable to score for eight minutes and looked shaky in defence afterwards. Powered by Marzo and Rafael Capote, who had a combined tally of 14 goals in the match, Qatar benefitted from their opponents’ mistakes to reduce the gap to 19:18.
“Our game was not consistent. We started very well and had some moments of quality, but didn’t show our best level after the break,” Argentina’s coach Manolo Cadenas said.
The Asian team gained momentum, and in minute 49, Marzo put them in front, 21:20. There was a lot at stake, and both sides looked nervous and made many technical mistakes. Yet, Qatar had more energy left and played a very tight defence, and they had the upper hand in the closing minutes.
With 27 seconds to go, Capote created a two-goal lead (27:25), and after Federico Pizarro netted for Argentina, their late attempt to draw level failed as Moscariello’s long-distance shot was saved in the last second.
Marzo was adjudged the player of the match.
Meanwhile, Spain beat Hungary 36-28. After their best IHF Men’s World Championship start since 1986, with five wins in their first five games, Hungary finally got their streak snapped.
It was a calculated decision to rest crucial players like centre back Mate Lekai and line player Bence Banhidi, who have combined for 43 goals in the first games, but also goalkeeper Roland Mikler, who has a 30 percent saving efficiency.
And for a moment, it looked like it would backfire drastically. With no answer in defence for a pacey and creative Spanish side, Hungary went down 2:7 after seven minutes.
But a suspension for back Joan Canellas turned the game on its head, with Hungary scoring two empty net goals in a row to set up a 5:0 run in only three and a half minutes that tied the game, 7:7.
However, Spain took care of things. An unusually laid-back defence from Hungary collapsed in the last ten minutes of the first half, as Spain embarked on a game-sealing 7:2 run.
It was right wing Ferran Sole who led the charge with eight goals from eight shots in the first 30 minutes, but Spain really played to their strengths, boasting a seven-goal lead, 21:14, but also an otherworldly 81 percent efficiency in attack.
A 2:0 start to the second half could have signalled Hungary were back in business, only for Spain to quash that with their own 7:0 run, preventing their opponents from scoring and opening a 28:16 lead.