BAHRAIN’S senior men’s national handball team are all set to fly the kingdom’ flag in the 2019 International Handball Federation (IHF) World Men’s Handball Championship, being jointly hosted by Denmark and Germany.
The event gets underway tomorrow. Matches set to be played in six host cities – Copenhagen, Herning, Berlin, Cologne, Munich and Hamburg.
A total of 24 teams in all have qualified for the competition. They have been divided into four groups of six for the preliminary round. The first three teams in each group at the end of a single round-robin move on to the main round. The bottom three teams will play the Presidents’ Cup to determine the positions from 13 to 24.
In the main round the 12 are split into two groups. Their points from the preliminary round are carried over, and the best two placed teams in each main round group will qualify for the semifinals, while the third- and fourth ranked teams play placement matches. From the semifinals on, a knockout system will be used.
Bahrain are underdogs in the tournament and have been drawn in a tough Group ‘B’ for the preliminaries. All their matches in this stage will be played in Munich. The other nations in their group are Spain, Croatia, Macedonia, Iceland and Japan.
The Bahrainis qualified for the world championship as the silver-medallists in the Asian championship held last year. Qatar and Saudi Arabia also earned a place from Asia, as did Japan and a unified Korean team, both of whom made it was Wildcards.
Bahrain are coached by former player and ex-coach of the Iceland national team, Aron Kristjansson. He also guided the team to the silver medals at last year’s Asian Games.
Kristjansson has named 18 players to his squad for the world championship. They include skipper Hussain Al Sayyad, Mohammed Merza, Mohammed Habib, Hassan Shehab, Ahmed Hussain, Ali Merza, Mahdi Sa’ad, Ali Khamis, Mohammed Abdulhussain, Hassan Madan, Mohammed Ali Merza, Jassim Al Salatna, Kumail Mahfooth, Belal Basham, Hassan Al Samaheeji, Abdulla Al Zaymoor, Ahmed Jalal and Hussain Mahfooth
Most of the Bahrain players are signed by clubs either in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia.
The Bahrainis open their tournament campaign on Friday against Spain. They then take on Macedonia on Sunday, after which they face Iceland the next day. The Bahrainis play Croatia on January 16 before closing out their preliminary round campaign taking on Japan the following evening.
Bahrain will be looking to improve on their finish in the previous world championship held in 2017 in France, where they earned a final ranking of 23rd among the 24 participating nations. They had lost all their group games then, but were able to win their concluding classification contest against Angola.
France are the defending champions.