News ID: 319645
Published: 0904 GMT January 25, 2022

Coach Fernandez after progress to world handball meet: Iran seeking place in Asian final showpiece

Coach Fernandez after progress to world handball meet:  Iran seeking place in Asian final showpiece

Iranian players celebrate a victory over Kuwait at the Asian Handball Championship in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, on January 24, 2022.

Sports Desk

Head coach Manuel Montoya Fernandez said Iran “will be fighting for a place at the Asian Handball Championship final” after a sensational victory over Kuwait in Saudi Arabia on Monday.

A nip and tuck contest in Dammam’s Ministry of Sports Hall saw Sajjad Esteki score with three seconds left on the clock to lead Fernandez’s men to a 27-26 triumph over four-time champion for a last-four spot and, most significantly, a berth at the 2023 World Handball Championship in Sweden and Poland.

“It was a really tough match. It was like a final,” said the Spanish coach, adding, “Congratulations to Kuwait for fighting right until the last seconds as only a single shot decided the tie.”

The Spaniard, however, said there will be much more up for grabs for his men in the competition.

“Reaching the world championship was only our initial goal, but we’re here to fight for a place in the final. We’re not done just yet,” said Fernandez, whose team will take on Bahrain – four-time runner-up between 2010 and 2018 – on Wednesday, with a top the spot of the quarterfinal Group II on the line.

Both sides are tied on four points, with Bahrain leading Iran on a superior goal difference.

The winner will avoid a last-four encounter against Qatar – world finalist in 2015 and the Asian champion for the past four occasions.

A participation at next January’s world event will only be a second for Iran, after a third-place finish in Asia in 2014 saw the country qualify for the competition in Qatar the following year.

Fernandez said the quality of the tournament in Saudi Arabia shows that the continent “deserves to have five representatives at the world championship.”

“We will also prove at the world championship that we’re not just an Asian side, but a team belonging with the world-class sides,” insisted the Spanish coach, who was only appointed to the job last July.  

Other than Esteki, goalkeeper Mohammad Siavashi made a massive contribution to Iran’s victory on Monday, producing some heroic saves to deny the Kuwaitis.

“Kuwait was lucky with some of the goals, but, thank God, our efforts paid off right at the death. We’re all happy from the bottom of our hearts, though I just can’t put my feeling into words,” said the Iranian shot stopper.


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