JAKARTA: The Saudi Arabian Handball Federation will undertake an enquiry into the national team’s disappointing exit from the Asian Games in a bid to ensure the absence of a repeat performance at the World Championships in five months’ time.
The Kingdom drew 20-20 with Iraq on Friday night, throwing away a lead late-on to finish third in their four-team group, behind world champions Qatar and Japan.
Wednesday’s defeat to Qatar was expected, but having drawn with Japan on Monday, victory over Iraq was essential to progress and coach Mariano Ortega’s experienced team came up well short.
“We are very disappointed,” Muhanna Al-Qamous, the team manager, told Arab News after a match in which two of his players were also disqualified. “Iraq were good, but our performance was the worst we have played in four years. Terrible. Now we must go home and study what happened and why and make some decisions.
“We are still hurting, so nothing will be decided yet. We are not reactionary. We will not change personnel, but maybe we were not prepared in the correct way. We must study and find out what the problem was because it was not clear. The federation will have an enquiry and there will be many meetings about this. We must ensure it is corrected before the World Championships and the Asian Championships too.”
Handball’s global showpiece will take place in Germany and Denmark next January, while the Tokyo 2020 qualification tournament for Asia is scheduled for October next year. Al-Qamous had arrived in Indonesia in confident spirits, speaking of a semifinal appearance, but warning of the need to beat Japan in their opening game. He called it “crucial” and spoke of it pitfalls if they failed to win. Saudi conceded twice in the final 96 seconds to tie 26-26.
“The first game against Japan ruined our plans and we never recovered from that setback,” he said on Saturday.
“It was not what we expected and we are not happy. Maybe our preparation has not been good enough; maybe because our coach arrived only in July, our players did not have much time to adapt to his style and philosophy. Maybe maybe maybe. We will analyze.
“Anyway, it is done. The Asian Games were not good for us, but we have a plan and will continue on our path. We must ensure it never happens again.”
Saudi Arabia will fly home on Monday after contesting the fifth-place playoff against Iran this afternoon. It is little surprise the desire to be involved is minimal, but Al-Qamous is banking on his side’s experience seeing them through.
“We play Iran for fifth, but speaking honestly, the motivation levels are not the same as they would be for a semifinal,” he said. “The players are familiar with the situation, the ups and downs of winning and losing, so it should not be a problem, but of course, we are not happy to be involved in this match.”
In Monday’s semifinals, Qatar will meet Korea, who beat Iran 34-28 to squeeze through from Group 2, while Japan will face Bahrain . The final is on Friday, by which time the Saudi delegation will be back on home soil and the investigation will be well underway.