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Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 22 - 01 - 2015

The Emir of Qatar HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani launched the 24th World Men's Handball Championship in Doha last Thursday, reports Ghada Abdel-Kader. Present at the spectacular ceremony at the Lusail Multipurpose Hall were the President of the Qatar 2015 Organising Committee HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al-Thani and the President of the International Handball Federation (IHF) Hassan Mustafa, who delivered speeches welcoming members of the international sporting community before they officially opened the championship.
The 24th World Men's Handball Championship (15 January-1 February), organised by of the International Handball Federation (IHF), is being held in Qatar for the first time, after Qatar won the bid to host it four years ago. Qatar's bid was selected over those of Norway, Poland and France after a vote by the IHF Council on 27 January 2011 in Sweden. This is the second time the World championship has been hosted in the Middle East, after Egypt in the year 1999.
Twenty four teams are participating in the championship, divided into four groups. Group A includes Slovenia, Qatar, Spain, Brazil, Belarus and Chil, Group B Macedonia, Croatia, Austria, Bosina-Hezregovina, Iran and Tunisia, C Egypt, Sweden, France, the Czech Republic, Iceland and Algeria and Group D Russia, Germany, Argentina, Denmark, Poland and Saudi Arabia. Qatar as the host and Spain as the world champion were automatically qualified.
The playing has been exciting, too. In Group A's opening match, Qatar beat Brazil 28-23. Qatar also achieved its second victory over Chile (27-20) on Saturday, in a match attended by the President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach, and the IHF's President Mustafa. On day three, Slovenia clinched victory over Belarus 34-29, and defending champion Spain scored their second victory over Brazil 29-27. Qatar also scored the second win (27-20) against Chile. The Slovenians were now at the top of their group after beating Qatar on goal difference, ahead of Qatar and Spain.
In Group B, Croatia beat Austria 32-30. Bosina-Hezregovina was defeated by Austria 23-21 while, in the second match, Bosina-Hezregovina managed to beat Iran 30-25. Iran defeated Macedonia 31-33, Macedonia beat Tunisia 33-25 and Croatia beat Tunisia 28-25. On day three, Macedonia beat Iran 33-31 and Bosina-Hezregovina beat Austria 32-30. The Macedonians now topped their group ahead of Croatia and Bosina-Hezregovina.
As for Group C, the Egyptian national team will understandably fight in a good spirit, after achieving victory over Algeria (34-20). On the other hand, the Algerian team will have to win to avoid being kicked out of the tournament. The same applies to the Saudi squad that lost to Russia (27-17). France beat the Czech Republic 30-27. On day four, Sweden defeated Iceland 24-16, Iceland beat Algeria 32-24 and Sweden beat the Czech Republic 10-20. The Egyptian team was looking forward to their second victory but unfortunately, France beat Egypt 24-28. This is the fourth match between them throughout the history of the game. Sweden became the leader of the group C, followed by France and Egypt.
The best result for the Egyptian team in the world championship was in 2001, when Egypt finished in fourth place in France. Egypt also became the first non-European team to reach the world championship semi-finals. The Egyptian team's first appearance in the world championship was in 1964.
The president of the Egyptian Handball Federation (EHF) Khaled Hammouda said, “Since 1993, the Egyptian team has never failed to participate in the world men's handball championship. Handball is considered the best team sport in Egypt.”
Egypt has competed in the Men's Junior World Handball Championship since 1983 and it has never failed to participate to date. It became the first non-European team to win a handball championship in 1993.
About the preparation of the Egyptian team, Hammouda added, “Our team had several friendly games with Brazil, Argentina and Algeria. We took second place. We also played friendly matches with the Norwegian team in Hurghada and the Italian team in Ismailia. We won all of them. We also had a training camp in Sharm El-Sheikh with the Saudi and Brazilian teams, and we beat them too.”
In Group D, Argentina managed to draw with world runner-up Denmark 24-24. In the same group, Russia and Germany won their first group matches, the former defeating Saudi Arabia 21-17 and Germany beating Poland 29-26 in a close match. On day four, Argentina beat Poland 24-23, a win Argentina needed considering itsstrong rivals in the Group D. Germany defeated Russia 27-26 and Denmark defeated Saudi Arabia 38-18.

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