Heja Norway! Despite a shaky start against Croatia, the defending EHF EURO champions have booked their ticket to France with their fourth straight win on Sunday night.
The final matches in Round 4 of the qualification additionally saw the Romanian take revenge against Russia, a surprising Swiss away victory at Kiev and an improving Faroe team, which are still waiting for their first point.
Norway vs Croatia 33:27 (13:12)
Even the absence of their long-term injured star Nora Mørk did not stop Norway on their way to the EHF EURO. The defending and record champions remained with a clear record after four rounds and followed Denmark and Montenegro to the EHF EURO 2018 in France.
Top scorers in their second victory against Croatia after the 32:25 away win were Amanda Kurtovic (7) and Heidi Løke (6).
Croatia remain on two points and are below Switzerland now, their top scorer in Norway was Stela Posavec with five goals. The 2014 co-host of the Women’s EHF EURO had a brilliant start, shocking the seven-time European champions by a 5:1 run. But a time-out by head coach Thorir Hergeirsson guided the hosts back on track, who scored four straight goals, but could not cast off the bravely fighting Croats until the break (13:12).
The match was equal until the 47th minute and just when Norway opened the gap to 22:20 it was becoming clear that the Croats were running out of steam; the defending champions scored a 6:0 run to decide the match, 28:20.
Ukraine vs Switzerland 21:22 (9:9)
Switzerland can continue dreaming of their first ever participation at a Women’s EHF EURO, after beating Ukraine on home ground 21:15 on Wednesday; they even conquered the away fortress in Kiev in a thrilling way.
Having four points on their account now, the team of Danish-born coach Martin Albertsen is second in Group 1 before the last two matches - and have their fate in their own hands, mostly with their match against Croatia.
Even ten goals from their top star Viktoriya Borshchenko were not enough for the hosts to leave the Swiss side behind. After a strong start (6:2), Ukraine lacked the efficiency in attack in the remaining minutes, and thus Switzerland levelled the result for a low-scoring 9:9 at the break.
The hosts kept the upper hand until the final stages, and seemed to be heading for a win, leading 21:19 with eight minutes to go. But then Swiss goalkeeper Manuela Brütsch rose like Phoenix, saved four shots in a row, and did not allow Ukraine to score anymore. 90 seconds before the end, Switzerland scored their third unanswered goal for the 22:21 win. Daphne Gautschi and Jennifer Murer were best Swiss scorers by five goals each.
FYR Macedonia vs Faroe Islands 28:24 (14:8)
The Faroe newbies showed real character, but the physical stronger Macedonians took the second win in this duel. The final result does not fully reflect the intermediate dominance of the host, who had already won the first leg in the Faroe Islands, 22:15.
Despite having four points on their account now, the Balkan side is still two points below the main contenders Sweden and Serbia, which they face in their upcoming matches.
After an initial 8:3 gap, the Macedonians took a six-goal lead into the dressing rooms after 30 minutes (14:8), but then the Faroe team improved both in defence and attack and suddenly were only down by four goals at 14:18.
The Macedonians had lost their pace, but still could manage to keep the gap between four and five goals constantly.
Like Italy, Portugal and Kosovo, Faroe Islands still wait for their first point in this qualification.
Romania vs Russia 26:25 (15:12)
Romania strike back - and everything is still open in the toughest of all groups! Having six points on their account, the Romanians are equal with sensational runners-up Austria and two points ahead of Russia - but the Olympic champions have the fate in their hands to turn the defeat in Austria into a ticket to France in the re-match in Round 5.
Romania, on the other hand, have opened the gate to the EHF EURO widely - but as expected, Russia were a tough nut to crack.
Four days after the 30:25 victory in Togliatti in the first leg, Russia were close to take another point in a roller-coaster-like match, but finally and backed by the fans at Cluj-Napoca, the hosts jumped for joy.
Romania dominated the first half after a strong 5:2 start. The defence was solid, and in attack the efficiency was high. The young Russian side had some problems in scoring and deservedly were down by three at the break (12:15).
Their coach Evgeny Trefilov found the right words in the locker room, as Russia shocked the Romanians with a brilliant re-start.
The Olympic champions needed only twelve minutes to turn the 12:15 into a 19:16 lead, conceding only one goal in that period. Ten minutes later, Russia were still ahead, but only by one goal (22:21), before the hosts finally decided today’s top encounter by a 5:2 run to make it 26:24 with less than two minutes to go.