Egypt deservingly beat its Tunisian counterpart to win the African Cup in handball in Tunis. The Pharaohs beat their North African rivals 27-23 (15-11) in the final.
The final pitted two teams which had won all their previous six games, making it a clash of the titans, a long fierce history between two giants of the sport in the African continent. The rivalry wasn’t only between the teams but two Spanish coaches – Toni Gerona for Tunisia and Roberto Garcia Parrondo for Egypt.
And on a day which would be historic for Spanish handball as their team retained the Men’s European Championship the final in Tunisia was refereed by the Spanish duo of Andreu Marin and Ignacio Garcia Serradilla.
Ten minutes into the final and amidst a full house at the indoor hall of Rades Stadium, Tunisia led by two goals, 5-3, but Egypt pulled it back to 5-5 before going ahead quickly 8-5 thanks to three fast-breaks, including two shots into an unguarded net as Tunisia took out their goalkeeper in attack.
From then onwards, Tunisia, a record 10-time winner of the event, struggled to get back into the game as Egypt took the lead 10-6 and kept a four-goal advantage until the break 15-11. By the 43rd minute Egypt was five up, 21-16, and the result was never in doubt as the visitors extended their lead to seven a minute later, 23-16, in the 44th minute.
Egypt celebrated wildly at the final whistle after which they were presented with their trophy from Tunisian Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Sonia Ben Cheikh.
The title is Egypt’s seventh in the history of the African competition. However, it was different this time as it secured for the country the qualifying ticket for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games which will be held in July and August.
Following Egypt’s victory, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi took to social media to congratulate the team for winning the African championship and qualifying for the Olympics.
“I congratulate the Egyptian people and the Egyptian men’s national team players for winning the African Cup of Nations title and also for their qualification to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” Al-Sisi said on his official Facebook page.
“I would like to convey my gratitude for their outstanding and heroic performance, strength, spirit and determination to win,” Al-Sisi added.
The championship saw the participation of 16 nations: Egypt, DR Congo, Guinea, Kenya, Angola, Gabon, Nigeria, Libya, Tunisia, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Cape Verde, Morocco, Algeria, Congo and Zambia. Throughout the tournament, they fought across 52 games.
The final day also saw the bronze medal presented to Algeria which beat Angola 32-27 in the third place play-off match.
The top six teams also automatically qualified to the 2021 IHF Men’s World Championship to be hosted by Egypt in January next year. Since the host nation also won second place in the 2020 Men’s African Championship, this means teams two through seven qualified.
Teams competing in Tunisia also included the 2022 Men’s African Championship which will be held in Morocco.
The final standings in Tunisia: Egypt (qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games), Tunisia and Algeria. Runners-up Tunisia and third placed Algeria both have another chance to join the Olympics via another Olympic qualifying tournament scheduled to take place in April.
Places from fourth to 16 were Angola, Cape Verde, Morocco, DR Congo, Gabon, Congo, Guinea, Nigeria, Cameroon, Libya, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya and Zambia.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 30 January, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.