Second-half comeback sees Netherlands power past Qatar

19 Jan. 2023

Second-half comeback sees Netherlands power past Qatar

The Netherlands secured their third win in four matches at Poland/Sweden 2023, 32:30, after a hard-fought match against Qatar, which saw the Dutch side mount an impressive comeback in the second half, keeping their quarter-finals dream alive. On the other hand, Qatar lost another close match, their third loss in four matches, and are virtually out of contention for the next phase.

Main Round Group III

Qatar vs Netherlands 30:32 (19:15)

Starting the main round with two points after their win against Argentina, the Netherlands emerged as an underdog in Group III of the main round at Poland/Sweden 2023, ready to pounce if one of the favourites was lagging behind.

Their loss against Norway in the preliminary round certainly hurt. However, the motivation was still there for one of the most interesting teams to watch at this edition of the IHF Men’s World Championship, their first edition since 1961.

Everything seemed to be working in the Netherlands’ favour, especially as Qatar replaced left back Rafael Capote from their team before the start of the main round as the Asian side’s third-best scorer with 12 goals in the first matches was not at 100% due to an injury sustained in the first match of the competition against Germany.

But handball always provides unexpected twists and turns, and this also applied to the match between the Asian champions and the Netherlands, with Valero Rivera’s side still at peak level despite missing some other key players from the teams that wrote history in the past editions of the world handball flagship competition, including the top goal scorer at Egypt 2021, Frankis Marzo.

The team’s captain, left wing Ahmad Madadi, delivered a vintage performance in the first half of the match, scoring six of Qatar’s first eight goals as the Dutch defence could simply not contain him and the passes to line player Youssef Ali.

A 3:0 run in the middle of the first half helped Qatar break through for the first time, creating a 9:6 lead, which grew and grew as the Dutch wings’ efficiency plummeted to a meagre 50% in the first half, with only five goals scored from 10 shots. 

The Dutch defence could also not rise up to the occasion, while centre back Luc Steins, the MVP of the French league in the past two seasons, was too nervous in the first 30 minutes, turning the ball over three times. Therefore, it was no surprise that Qatar took a 19:15 lead at the break, shocking the Dutch side.

It was the second-best performance ever at the IHF Men’s World Championship in the first half of a match for Qatar, two goals shy of their record set at Denmark/Germany 2019 against Chile when they scored 21 times.

But could they keep up the rhythm in the second half, without Capote and facing a team with more depth and experience, ready to bounce back, as their future in the competition depended on it?

At first glance, the answer was no. Until the 54th minute, Qatar had only scored eight times in the second half as turnovers piled up and the Netherlands cleaned up both in defence and especially in attack.

After missing shot after shot on the wings in the first part of the match, the Netherlands bounced back and insisted on creating shots for them, with Rutger ten Velde and Niels Versteijnen duly delivering as they combined for 14 goals in the match.

With right back Kay Smits, the hummel Player of the Match, linking up perfectly with the two wings, as he scored eight times and jumped to first place in the top goal scorer standings of the competition with a 32-goal tally, the Netherlands were primed to seal the win, especially after a 7:2 run turned the game on its head.

A comeback for Qatar was off the cards as the Asian champions had the chance to tie the match with 90 seconds to go, only for two turnovers to hand back the ball to the Netherlands. They never looked back from that moment and sealed their third win at Poland/Sweden 2023, 32:30, after a strong comeback in the second half.

The Netherlands are back in the race for a quarter-final berth with four points and face a must-win match against Germany on Saturday, while Qatar are virtually out of contention to secure a place in the knockout phase with zero points and only two matches to go.

hummel Player of the Match: Kay Smits (Netherlands)