Rio de Janeiro – Frenh star goalkeeper Omeyer Thierry lived up to status and lifted his team to a runaway 35-20 victory against Qatar with a dozen blocks in a Group A match during the Rio Olympic Games men’s handball on Tuesday.
Luc Abalo led the winners with seven strikes off 11 attempts. On a big 10-man scorers’ list, Nikola Karabatic and Mathieu Grebille shared 10, while Cedric Sorhaindo and Michael Guigou netted four each.
For Qatar, right back Zarko Markovic, Rafael Capote and Marko Bagaric fired four each.
The key Round 2 match was expected to be as close as the 2015 World Championship final when France, the Olympics defending champions, got the better of the rivals by 25-22 at the Losail Multipurpose Hall.
In the opening half, Asia champions Qatar, led by Markovic, Capote, Bagaric and Abdulrazzaq Murad, resisted spiritedly and were just three goals apart (13-16).
The opening of the game was level as Omeyer saved in the eighth and it was converted into a goal by Nikola Karabatic (3-3). After that Qatar’s Hassan Mabrouk was sent off for two minutes. During his time on the bench, France moved ahead to hold a 6-4 advantage after 10 minutes, before Qatar came back to level the score at 6-6 by the 13th.
France maintained a steady one to two-goal advantage as Michael Guigou scored a penalty against Danijel Saric to earn France a two-goal lead at 9-7 just after the 15-minute mark, before Marko Bagaric responded and the difference returned to one (8-9). That was the closest Qatar would come to victory and when France reached an 11-8 advantage in the 19th minute, coach Valero Rivera called his first time-out of the match. Qatar could not decrease the score line and as the last 10 minutes of the half began, Nikola Karabatic added his second goal to take the score to 12-9.
With Qatar’s Markovic out on a suspension, France kept their three-goal lead, thanks to Luc Abalo, as the buzzer for the half-time break sounded.
When the match resumed, France really began to open up the advantage with Thierry pulling off some thrilling stops. With 15 minutes left on the clock, the holders had opened a formidable 25-16 lead. In this session, Qatar could convert only seven goals, which led to the big defeat.