Qatar comes up short in final following historic handball performance

With reporting by Chantelle D’mello. Photos by 2015 Handball, Chantelle d’Mello and Gazanfarulla Khan.

Qatar’s historic run at the Men’s Handball World Championship came to an end during this evening’s final match as the national team came up short against France, losing 25-22.

The defeat at the new Lusail Multipurpose Hall marked the end of a tournament in which the host team exceeded the expectations of many after coming in ranked 32nd in the world and advancing to the championship match.

The dramatic on-court performance came as local organizers staged a largely successful two-week international sporting event that also included concerts by some of the most popular performers to ever come to Qatar, including Pharrell Williams, Gwen Stefani and Jason Derulo. Kylie Minogue, Taio Cruz and Mani Hoffman were scheduled to perform following this evening’s match.

The Lusail arena – one of three new stadiums built for the tournament – was awash in maroon and white as spectators, many of whom could be seen dressed in wigs and costumes, waved Qatari flags that were handed out in the atrium to arriving fans.

Qatar led off the scoring, adding more energy to an already hyped-up crowd.

The team fell behind and trailed 14-11 at the half and narrowed the gap to one goal at one point in the second half, but could ultimately could not take the lead.

Bronze medal match

The finals match was preceded by an overtime win by Poland, which captured the bronze medal by defeating Spain 29-28.

Admission confusion

Earlier in the day, some ticket-holders said they were afraid they wouldn’t be able to make it inside the venue for the sold-out match after organizers said that the doors would be closed at 4:30pm. That’s just as the bronze medal match between Poland and Spain was starting, but nearly three hours before the final match was scheduled to get underway.

Ultimately, the gates remained open for ticket holders past 5pm.

Organizers gave no reason for the warning for fans to show up early, although some speculated it was a security related measure due to the attendance of several VIPs, including Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Others questioned whether it was related to the organizers’ desire to fill the stadium and noted the large crowd – most of whom were in Qatari national dress – milling outside the stadium prior to the first match. They were allowed in shortly before 7pm.

Unlike last week’s quarter-final match, when hundreds of ticket-holders were turned away by security guards because the arena was supposedly already full, there did not appear to be any public complaints of fans being denied entry this evening.

There did, however, appear to at least one isolated incident. Ticket holder Hansel Crasto said he arrived at 4:30pm, but was barred from entering by security guards for more than two hours even as individuals who did not appear to have tickets were allowed in.

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