The bronze medal of the 2022 Asian Handball Championship will be on the line when Iran and Saudi Arabia go head-to-head in the Saudi city of Dammam’s Ministry of Sports Hall on Monday.
The game will be a repeat of a Group B encounter, when Iran overcame a four-goal deficit at halftime to beat the host 24-20 and win the group.
On Saturday, Iran fell to a last-four 34-19 defeat against Asian powerhouse Qatar – world finalist in 2015 and the Asian champion for the previous four occasions.
“We held out in the first 10 minutes but Qatar is a world-class team and eventually won the game,” Spanish head coach Manuel Montoya Fernandez said after Saturday’s defeat, adding his team still has it all to play for against the Saudis as Iran “came into the competition to deliver its best performance.”
A victory on Monday will see Iran equal a best-ever achievement in the tournament, after a win against the UAE in 2014.
A top-four finish has already secured Iran a place at next January’s World Handball Championship in Sweden and Poland.
“Our main goal prior to the event was to qualify for the world championship, but we will now put in all our efforts to win the bronze. We’ve already beaten Saudis in the competition and I believe we will be the favorites to finish on the podium,” said Iranian skipper Mojtaba Heidarpour, while his teammate Afshin Sadeqi described Sinday’s fixture as “a game of life and death.”
Awaiting Qatar on Monday, Bahrain – the 29-20 winner against Saudi Arabia – hopes to celebrate a first victory over its opponent in the final showpiece, having suffered three successive defeats against the Qataris between 2014 and 2018.
Earlier in the day, the final slot for the world championship will be up for grabs when South Korea – nine-time champion and runner-up in 2020 – squares off against Iraq in the fifth-place playoff.