DOHA (AFP) – France became the first team in handball history to win five world championships when they beat surprise finalists Qatar 25-22 on Sunday.
The win means France’s are now world, European and Olympic champions, emphasising their current dominance of the sport.
It was the country’s first world title since 2011.
The victory should have been far more comfortable than it was, but a dogged Qatar side ensured that France were pushed all the way to the finish line, ensuring a nervy finish.
French coach, Claude Onesta said he could not rank the world championships he has won as a coach — three in total — and said the Qatari team would be around for some time.
“They didn’t do one outstanding result, they have improved their performances, they have a lot of fine players like (Rafael) Capote, he has shown real qualities and was exceptional,” he said.
Qatar’s coach Valero Rivera said his team lost the final in the first 15 minutes.
“Today we played 45 minutes at a high level but the first 15 minutes the French team played very good and we showed we are a new team.”
The game ultimately proved one match too many for the hosts, who, for the first time in the tournament, found themselves outclassed for large parts of the game, particularly in the first 30 minutes.
However, there was honour in defeat for the Qataris as lesser teams would have been swept away by France’s performance.
Instead, a resolute Qatar side even at one stage in the final 30 minutes threatened to overturn a six-goal deficit.
But the French were — just — able to hang on, leaving Qatar with the consolation that their performance in the final and throughout the tournament has confirmed the tiny Gulf state’s status as one of the sport’s new powers.
Ironically, given the fuss about Qatar’s foreign legion playing for the national side, it was France’s Serbian-born Nikola Karabatic who dominated the game, especially in the first half.