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Final dream dashed
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 20 - 08 - 2009

The Egyptian national juniors team failed to make it to the end game, Inas Mazhar reports
The Egyptians lost the semi-final to European champions Denmark while Slovenia lost to another European champion, Germany.
At the 17th World Junior Handball Championship staged in Egypt, the Germans struggled in the first half against the Slovenians and were two goals behind at half time, 13-11. But Germany overpowered their opponents in the second half to win the game 27-23.
The German coach said he was happy with the result and for reaching the final because he believed in his team's capabilities to make it to the final. He said their route to the final was successful except for their one upset when they lost to Argentina with only a goal difference.
The German coach said his team is now looking to the final match and to winning the tournament. He thinks it will not be an easy match because it is the final which usually sees the best two teams in the competition especially that the Danish team is one of the teams who has won all its matches since the beginning of the tournament.
En route to the final, Germany beat Iceland, Kuwait, Qatar and Egypt, losing only to Argentina. They qualified on top of the Group A.
In the main round, Germany beat Spain, France and Brazil to qualify to the semi finals where they beat Slovenia.
Denmark qualified to the final after defeating Egypt, the host nation, 27-21. The Danes had a successful campaign since the beginning of the tournament winning all their matches in the preliminary round against Algeria, Morocco, Portugal, Belarus and the Czech Republic. In the main round, the Danes beat Estonia, Sweden and Slovenia to qualify to the semi final.
The Pharaohs still have high hopes. They still have the chance to step onto the podium at the awards ceremony 19 August when they play off for the bronze medal against Slovenia.
For the first time since the beginning of the tournament, Cairo Stadium was full house against Denmark. Tens of thousands of Egyptian fans rushed to the stadium hours before the game began. They gave the game an atmosphere of enthusiasm, excitement and competition.
In the first half, the Egyptians looked out of shape, unable to match the strength and speed of the Danish players who scored one goal after the other while squandering several chances more.
According to head coach Assem El-Saadani, the team did their best to win but couldn't. "We tried to win but they were more experienced and very fast. It is still a good result to reach the semifinal and play for third place. If we win the bronze medal then we have achieved one of our targets.
"I want officials and fans to understand that we played nine matches in 12 days. We managed to win seven and lose two which is very good for us. We beat very strong teams coming from different handball schools from Europe and Latin America. These teams have an older and richer history in the sport than us.
"To be ranked among the top four from 24 teams is an excellent result. It is the first time in our juniors history. It's true we won the world title in 1993 but they were only 16 teams then, not 24. For me this is the strongest and toughest world championship."
Head coach of Denmark said he was glad his team made it to the final and beat the hosts while playing in front of their fans. "My players are not used to playing in such a big stadium and such crowds. It was very difficult for them but they focused on their game and made it. Before the match I told them to enjoy the game first and foremost and they did. We are very proud of qualifying to the final."
"We are expecting a difficult game against Germany in the final. We will be prepared for them. Interestingly, we know each other very well. We play in the European championships and friendly matches as well. So we are open cards to each other."
Four matches were played on Monday before the semi-finals to decide places from 5th to 12th.
The first match was held between France and Estonia who played off for the 11 and 12 places. The French managed to beat Estonia 32-29.
The Brazil-Czech match proved the Brazilians are an ambitious team and that the sport has progressed a lot in this South American country best known for its football. The Brazilians defeated the Czech Republic 36-31 to notch 9th place while the Czechs were placed 10th.
The third match of the day was an all-European affair between two neighbouring countries, Spain and Portugal. The Portuguese beat their opponents 28-24 to claim 7th place. Spain placed 8th.
Title holders Sweden had to settle for fifth place in this tournament after beating Argentina 32-30. Argentina placed sixth.
The placement matches from 13 to 24 were held in Suez in Al-Nasr and Mubarak halls. It was the last time Suez fans would have the chance to enjoy handball matches as they said their good-byes to the 12 teams who played the placement matches in the city.
In the placement matches for 13/14 places, the Icelanders snatched victory over The Netherlands in the last seconds of the match 39-38 in overtime. Iceland and The Netherlands had played to a draw 30-30.
Belarus clinched 15th place after beating Norway 30-18. Belarus dominated the first half 16-7 which made it easy for them to confirm their lead in the second half. The Norwegians were placed 16th.
The 17th place went to Iran after they unexpectedly displayed one of their toughest performances in the competition as they outclassed Greenland 44-34. Spectators enjoyed a tough first half which ended 20-18 in favour of the Iranians who then put on more pressure in the second half. Greenland placed 18th.
Qatar and Algeria played for the 19/20 places and it was Qatar who claimed the 19th place with a 28-26 victory over the Algerians. The two teams were level in the first half 13-13.
Tunisia placed 21st after beating their North African neighbours Morocco 28-23. The game was very close in the beginning as both teams exchanged goals but the eventual winners managed to take the lead at half time with one more goal 12-11. Morocco placed 22nd.
The last placement match for the 23/24 places was held at Al-Nasr Stadium between Kuwait and Libya. The Kuwaitis overpowered Libya 39- 28 showing their supremacy throughout. The Kuwaitis clinched the 23rd position leaving Libya dead last. The Libyans were coached by Egyptian Assem Hamad, a former coach of the Egyptian Ahli club. Hamad resigned during the preliminary matches.

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