PARIS: Holders France rallied past Sweden into the semifinals of Handball World Championships here on Tuesday as Qatar, finalists two years ago, were dumped out of the tournament.
France held off Sweden 33-30 in a thriller which went down to the wire in Lille to set up a meeting with Slovenia, who ended Qatar's run 32-30 in Paris.
Croatia edged 2013 champions Spain 30-29 in Montpellier, thanks to nine goals from left back Marko Mamic, as Norway booked their first semi-final at the worlds with a 31-28 win over Hungary in Albertville.
French hopes had been boosted by the elimination of Olympic champions Denmark and European holders Germany.
But the French had to battle past a dogged Sweden with Lukas Nilsson powering the Scandinavians with five first-half goals as the hosts trailed 16-15 at the break.
With some key substitutions however and good work by Vincent Gerard, Kentin Mahe and Nedim Remili, the French battled back to keep their bid for a sixth world title on track.
They take on Slovenia on Thursday.
It will be the third meeting between the two teams in less than two weeks with the French winning the previous ties.
The clash will also have a special flavour for Slovenian back Jure Dolenec, voted man of the match against Qatar with five goals, and Vid Kavticnik, who will be up against many of their teammates from Montpellier.
Qatar had shocked Germany in the previous round but were trailing from the outset as Slovenia pulled 9-5 ahead after 11 minutes thanks to Dolenec.
Jan Grebenc was also on target as Slovenia entered the last 15 minutes with a nine-goal advantage.
But despite a late fightback and eight goals from French-born Bertrand Roine it was too late for the Qataris to come back.
Earlier, Norway broke new ground at the World Championships with Espen Lie Hansen, Sander Sagosen and goalkeeper Torbjorn Bergrund laying the groundwork for their quarterfinal win.
The Norwegians, whose highest world ranking of six was back in 1958, will meet Croatia, the 2003 champions, on Friday for the other place in Sunday's final.
France 33 Sweden 30
Norway 31 Hungary 28
Slovenia 32 Qatar 30
Spain 29 Croatia 30
France v Slovenia
Norway v Croatia