South Korea prevailed 28-25 over Japan on Wednesday in a replay of the men’s handball qualifying tournament to book a spot in this summer’s Beijing Olympics.
South Korea took a 14-11 halftime lead and staved off a brave rally from Japan in the second half in a match that was unprecedented following allegations of biased officiating by Middle Eastern referees in last year’s tournaments.
The host tied the game at 5-5 on Makoto Suematsu’s penalty throw before South Korea opened a 14-10 lead. Japan continued to struggle on defense but Daisuke Miyazaki scored just before the break to turn the tide.
South Korea extended its lead to 23-17 before Japan rallied for three unanswered goals in a seven-minute period to move within 23-20. Despite going on a 5-2 run with just under seven minutes remaining at Yoyogi National Gymnasium, Japan was unable to overcome the deficit. South Korea’s Paek Won Chul led with a game-high nine goals.
Japan’s East Asian neighbor gained a berth to this summer’s Beijing Games based on the result of the match, which was held under the authority of the International Handball Federation.
Japan, which is aiming for its first Olympic appearance and fifth overall since the 1988 Seoul Games, will next play in the world final qualifiers from May 30-June 1.
“This time we were able to compete against each in a game of power versus power and we lost,” said Japan captain Yoshio Nakagawa. “We really have nothing to feel bad about since we came together as a team. We have to continue with the same spirit to win a berth in the world final qualifiers.”