By Mike Rowbottom

Qatar launched themselves into the last eight of the World Handball Championships for the first time tonight as they beat Austria 29-27 ©Qatar2015Qatar ticked the box marked "Best Ever Performance" tonight as they reached the last eight of the World Handball Championship for the first time through a 29-27 win over Austria.

The hosts are being guided by the Spaniard who steered his nation to the world title on home soil two years ago, Valero Rivera, and one assumes the crowd of 12,200 at the Lusail Multipurpose Hall included the 60 vocal Spaniards controversially "hired" on an all-expenses paid trip to support the home team in this tournament.

If so, they had something to shout about in a tense match where both sides allowed nerves to get the better of them at crucial moments.

The home team, boosted by naturalised players, bettered their previous high point of 16th place at the Championship in a contest where there was rarely more than two goals between the teams, with Austria's Raul Santos missing some tempting chances.

"I got angry with myself that I did not score more often," said the left wing.

Austria led 14-13 at half-time, and pulled further ahead, but the home side took the lead with 15 minutes to go and kept their noses ahead.

"It is very bitter that we lost the match," said Austria's pivot, Markus Wagestreiter.

"I think that we were the better team."

Spain, defending champions, did not let Tunisia get in their way as they reached the last eight at the World Handball Championship in Qatar with a 28-20 win ©Qatar2015Spain, defending champions, did not let Tunisia get in their way as they reached the last eight at the World Handball Championship in Qatar with a 28-20 win ©Qatar2015

Spain, playing later in the day, earned expected progress with a  28-20 win over Tunisia.

Croatia, one of the other four top seeds in Qatar along with France and Denmark, who will play their round of 16 matches tomorrow against Egypt and Iceland respectively, squeezed past Brazil 26-25, finishing the stronger after the match went into the final five minutes tied at 24-24.

A medium distance goal from Igor Karačić gave Croatia a lead that they held onto grimly until a great goal by Domagoj Duvnjak which put them 26-24 up with 37 seconds remaining allowed them to anticipate victory.

Even then, however, Brazil - certain of participation at next year's Olympics as the host team - hit back with a defiant goal from Thiagus dos Santos 24 seconds from time.

Slovenia reached the final eight thanks to a 30-28 win over Macedonia, whose chances were knocked back after quarter of an hour when, shortly after putting his side 7-6 up, Stojanče Stoilov required lengthy treatment to a cut face.

The odds continued to favour Slovenia in the second half as Macedonia had Filip Mirkulovski red-carded for a foul on Uroš Zorman.

Slovenia failed to take many of the chances they created, but they scored enough as their keeper, man-of-the-match Gorazd Škof, had an inspired final 15 minutes.

"The big difference was in goalkeeping," said Borko Ristovski, the Macedonian goalkeeper.

"We were very bad."

Slovenia's right wing Dragan Gajič added: "We played good.

"Our heads were cool but our hearts were hot.

"We have to play with emotions like we played today and if we do that, we are really hard to beat.

"We made our goal here in Qatar, that was to be in the eight best teams.

"We now play relaxed; we can play good handball - for our hearts, for our souls."

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