CAIRO: Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria fulfilled expectations to qualify to the next round of the 19th African Handball Championship after a non-surprising group stage.
Morocco, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo joined the trio to qualify for the second round in the championship held in Cairo and Suez.
Twelve participating teams were pooled into three groups; title holders Egypt headed Group B which also included Angola, Cameroon and Gabon; Group A comprised Tunisia, Libya, Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo while Group C had Algeria competing against Morocco, Cote D ivoire and Congo Brazzaville.
The winner and runner-up of each group proceeded to the second group stage, the tournament s main stage in which the six teams are divided to two groups; then, the top two teams at each group compete in the semi-final knockout matches.
Egypt dominated its group, beating Gabon 27-21, Cameroon 30-17 and Angola 28-20; Tunisia beat Libya, Congo DRC and Nigeria 43-24, 36-22 and 33-20 respectively; on the other hand, Algeria finished the first round with the best goal difference beating Cote D ivoire 29-11, Congo Brazzaville 31-13 and Morocco 35-16.
Egypt, DRC and Morocco will compete in group two while Algeria, Tunisia and Angola will compete in group one.
Both groups matches will be played at Cairo International Stadium s main and middle halls.
Libya was the first team to bid the tournament farewell after losing its three games, while Angola showed great improvement from previous tournaments bidding themselves to be the fourth side at the semi-final.
Tunisia has the best record in the history of the championship with seven titles; Algeria comes second with six titles while Egypt has five titles under its belt.
While Tunisia and Algeria exchanged dominance over the continent in the 1970s and 1980s, Egypt returned to the African handball scene strongly during the 1990s and 2000s.
Egypt beat Tunisia two years ago 27-25 in the 18th championship held in Angola to earn its fifth title and many experts tip them to equalize Algeria s record by winning this year as they enjoy the advantage of home crowd support.
Egyptian team coach, Gamal Shams, opted to choose a mix of players from three different generations with the majority of players coming from the middle generation like Ahmed Al Ahmar, Belal Awaad and Mostafa El Sayed.
Hussein Zaki, Hassan Yosry and Hamada Al Naqib are some of the more experienced elements of the team; While, Mohamed Abdel Rahman and Karim Al Saeed represent youth players who participated in the Youth World Cup in Cairo last summer.
As Egypt works to equal the achievement of its Algerian counterpart, the participation of the Algerian team made the headlines following the feud between the two North African countries during football World Cup 2010 s qualifications; Egypt initially gave up the organization of the tournament due to Algeria s participation but retreated from its decision later.
The Algerian team arrived only one day before its opening match and signed with the Egyptian party an additional security protocol; however, Algerian officials hailed Egypt s reception and organization as the tournament started.
In the women s championship, Angola and Tunisia are set for the final after both dominated their groups.
Matches scheduleGroup 1Feb. 15, 18:00 pm: Tunisia – Angola, Cairo Stadium main hallFeb. 16, 16:00 pm: Angola – Algeria, Cairo Stadium middle hallFeb. 17, 18:00 pm: Algeria – Tunisia, Cairo Stadium middle hall
Group 2Feb. 15, 20:00 pm: Egypt – DRC, Cairo Stadium main hallFeb. 16, 20:00 pm: Egypt – Morocco, Cairo Stadium main hallFeb. 17, 18:00 pm: DRC-Morocco, Cairo Stadium main hall