How many teams qualify for the World Championship?
Final round of a group stage on the 17th Asian Championship resolved all dilemmas: Qatar will face Saudi Arabia in the semi-final, while host Bahrain will play against Japan.
In the play-off from 5th to 8th place, Korea will play against United Arab Emirates, and Iran will face Oman. Lebanon and Syria will play for 9th place, while China is on the 11th place of the championship.
In the group A, Japan had an easy job against Syria, winning 24:15 (11:6). Qatar did not let Korea to produce any surprise, celebrating 38:23 (19:13) victory.
In the Group B, Lebanon woke up and won 30:28 (15:18) against China, securing 5th place in the group. In a close encounter which could go either way, Iran won 34:32 (15:15) against United Arab Emirates. In the derby of the round, the match which decided about first position, Bahrain won a hard-fought 25:24 (15:12) game over Saudi Arabia, saving the victory in the last seconds. In the aftermath, Saudi Arabia coach Nenad Kljaić raised concerns about the referee criteria via his Facebook profile, posting photos and counting no less than 18 mistakes in favor of Bahrain. Referees are a hot topic in the group B: couple of days before, after commenting some obvious mistakes of the referees on Bahrain-UAE game, United Arab Emirates received an official warning.
However, referees are not the biggest controversy on the Asian Championship. In the middle of the Championship, the morning before start of the 5th round, the letter from the IHF arrived, creating confusion and bringing dose of anxiety in number of teams. It is stated only four teams from Asia, including Qatar, will qualify for the 2017 World Championship. This interpretation is completely different than the preliminary one. Before the start of the Asian Championship, teams are informed Qatar has already qualified for the World Championship as vice-champion of the world and four more slots are available. Following recent update, it is completely unknown if holder of the 5th place will qualify for the World Cup. If the IHF decision described in the letter delivered on the half of the Championship is final, the play-off for 5th place becomes completely pointless. This change of regulations is widely considered as “shame” and “joke” by many representatives of Asian national federations.
TEXT: Marko Selakovic
Photo attached – from the game Bahrain – Saudi Arabia