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Handball: Japan beat Bahrain to finish 19th at men's world c'ship

Japan's players celebrate after the World Handball Championship against Bahrain in Cairo, Egypt, on Jan. 25, 2021. (Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Pool via AP)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan finished 19th in the men's 32-team world handball championship in Cairo on Monday, making a huge stride from two years ago when they were last among 24 teams at the same tournament with no wins.

    Japan, who qualified from the preliminary round only for the second time, wrapped up the tournament by beating Bahrain 29-25 to place fifth among six teams in Main Round Group II.

    Tatsuki Yoshino bagged nine goals while Jin Watanabe scored eight as Japan, who will appear at the Tokyo Olympics as hosts, held onto their 19-12 lead at the break helped by good saves from keeper Yuta Iwashita.

    "We were tired, but we still did our best for the win," said Yoshino. "This tournament will give us a huge push for the upcoming Olympic Games."

    Japan took powerhouse Croatia to a 29-29 draw in the preliminary-round opener before losing to Qatar 31-29 but edged Angola 30-29 to reach the main round.

    They fell 28-24 against Argentina and 34-27 to defending champions Denmark but Japan coach Dagur Sigurdsson, who singled out the latest win over the Asian Olympic qualifier Bahrain as the best outing since he took charge in 2017, was pleased with his team's overall effort.

    "I am extremely happy with the performance and the win, as well as our results in the tournament," said the Icelandic coach. "We played six good games and we have to keep going."

    Japan previously came through the preliminary round once in 1997 when they hosted the tournament in Kumamoto. They will be playing in the Olympics this summer for the first time since 1988 having qualified as host nation.

    "We all feel we're getting closer to the world's very best," captain Remi Anri Doi said. "I believe we showed to the world that we're no pushover."

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