Croatia secure spot in France

QUALIFICATION REVIEW 2: Croatia become the 11th team to qualify for the EHF EURO, while Norway and Montenegro each take their sixth victories

The young Croatia side secured their qualification for the EHF EURO 2018 with two strong matches to end their campaign.

One more ticket for the Women’s EHF EURO 2018 was granted on Saturday night: Croatia are the 11th side to clinch their berth, after beating Ukraine in their final qualifier. Norway and Montenegro both finished the qualification phase on the maximum 12 points, while Spain secured the top position in their group.

Round 6 of the qualification phase will conclude on Sunday, when the four remaining places in France will be decided.

Croatia vs Ukraine 28:25 (15:12)

Their clear away win in Switzerland on Wednesday opened the gate to France, and on Saturday, Croatia walked through it. Thanks to their second straight victory, the rejuvenated team have six points in their account and clinch their berth in France, while Ukraine remain on the bottom of the table with two points.

The hosts were ahead throughout almost the entire 60 minutes, taking revenge for the 22:26 defeat in the first leg against Ukraine. Seven goals from Aneta Benko and a great start (5:2 and 12:8) were the base for the victory.

Ukraine tried everything and were even ahead twice after the break, at 17:16 and 18:17, before the Croatians broke their resistance, pulling ahead to the decisive 24:19 in minute 47. Even eight goals from Iryna Glibko were not enough for the visitors to turn the tide.

Norway vs Switzerland 41:18 (16:6)

12 points from six matches and an impressive goal difference of +71 is the outcome for defending EHF EURO champions Norway at the end of the qualification phase. After a 17-goal gap in the first leg in Switzerland (29:12), the Norwegians punished the visitors even harder on Saturday night.

The hopes for Switzerland to make it to France were shattered following their clear defeat against Croatia and, knowing the result of Croatia’s match, there was little motivation for the guests.

Norway started furiously, with a 7:0 series, and were ahead by 10 goals at the break. Head coach Thorir Hergeirsson’s team were still hungry for goals and scored more than 40 for the first time in the qualification phase.

Montenegro vs Italy 28:22 (16:8)

Six matches, six victories – like Denmark before and Norway after, the Montenegrins, who had qualified for France long before round 6, finished the EHF EURO qualification phase with the maximum 12 points. Dijana Ujkic was top scorer for the victors with five goals.

The deal was sealed early, when the EHF EURO 2012 champions forged ahead to 7:2 and 12:4, after which coach Per Johansson started significant rotation. Montenegro allowed Italy a similar result to that of the first leg (16:23), with the narrowest gap during the match at three goals, 21:24.

Italy remain on zero points after six straight defeats.

Spain vs Lithuania 29:17 (15:7)

Spain topped Group 6 after Saturday’s victory against Lithuania, which took them to 10 points ahead of Germany (nine points). The Spaniards (and Germans) had already clinched their berth for the EURO in round 5.

After losing against Germany on Thursday, the injury-hit Lithuanians, who had lost the first leg to Spain 17:24, were out of the EURO race.

Spain decided Saturday’s match early, when the score was 11:4 after 20 minutes and double-figured for the first time at 17:7 after 32. Maitane Etxeberria was the top scorer for the Spaniards, with five goals.

Lithuania finished on bottom of Group 6 without a victory, counting two points in their account after their sensational opening draw against Germany and a second versus Turkey.

written by Björn Pazen / cg