06/01/2018

Four do-or-die clashes headline final EHF EURO qualifiers

PREVIEW: Nine teams still with the chance to make it to France will fight – mostly in direct duels – for the five remaining spots at the Women’s EHF EURO 2018

Photo: Slovenian Handball Federation

Only 11 of 16 spots at the Women’s EHF EURO 2018 are confirmed after the penultimate round of qualification matches. Nine teams can still hope to clinch a berth in France, with most of the open places to be decided in direct round 6 duels on Saturday and Sunday.

Aside from hosts France, these teams have already booked their tickets: Norway (Group 1), Montenegro (Group 2), Serbia, Sweden (both Group 3), Romania (Group 4), Denmark (Group 5), Spain, Germany (both Group 6), Netherlands and Hungary (both Group 7).

Alongside the seven group winners and runners-up, the best third-ranked team out of all groups will make it to France. For this ranking, only the matches against the teams in positions one and two will be taken in account.

GROUP 1
Croatia vs Ukraine – Saturday 2 June, 18:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

After a commanding 33:16 win in Switzerland on Wednesday, the Croatians have four points in their account – and control of their own fate.

Considering that Switzerland (four points) are the clear underdogs against defending and record EURO champions Norway, a draw against Ukraine, who won the first-leg encounter 26:22, might be enough for Croatia to qualify for France.

GROUP 2  
Poland vs Slovakia – Sunday 3 June, 18:30 local time, live on ehfTV.com

Slovakia face an extremely high hurdle to give their outgoing coach Dusan Poloz a farewell present in the form of the EHF EURO ticket.

Due to the 20:29 home defeat in the first leg against Poland, the Slovakians (on four points) need to win on Sunday in Koszalin by a margin of at least 10 goals. A victory for Poland, draw or a Slovakian win of less than 10 will take the hosts (six points) to the EHF EURO 2018.

Slovakia gave a great fight to group winners Montenegro in round 5, but ultimately lost their home match 24:27, while Poland took a clear win, 33:25, in Italy.

GROUP 4
Russia vs Austria – Sunday 3 June, 15:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

It is showtime in Astrakhan! After the results of round 5, Olympic champions Russia are in control of their destiny. Their 30:24 victory in Portugal, combined with Austria’s 25:28 home defeat against Romania, means both teams enter the round 6 match on six points, while Romania are already through to France.

As the Austrians sensationally won the first leg against Russia 27:25 at home, a draw will be enough for coach Herbert Müller’s team to clinch their berth in France. Russia need to win to be sure, but even in this situation, Austria would have a good chance to qualify as best third-ranked team. A draw could realistically be enough for Russia too, as they would have three points in the internal ranking between third-placed teams.

Müller’s side missed a big chance to seal the deal earlier, letting a possible draw or even victory slip from their hands against Neagu & Co on Thursday. “Despite the defeat, our performance against Romania will boost us in Russia,” said Austria right back Tamara Bösch, who will end her international career on Sunday in Astrakhan.

GROUP 5
Czech Republic vs Slovenia – Sunday 3 June, 19:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

It is a do-or-die game for both sides: After the 28:28 draw in the first leg in Slovenia, the Czechs only need a draw to make it to France. A defeat would mean their elimination, as they would not even have the chance to qualify as best third-ranked team.

Slovenia missed an opportunity for a better base in this qualification final with their defeat against Denmark on Wednesday. They had the chance to take a victory against the group winners, but finally lost 23:25. With the result, Slovenia remained on four points – and therefore need to win on Sunday to clinch their EURO berth for certain.

Depending on the result of the Russia versus Austria match, a draw could potentially be enough for Slovenia to take the spot as best third-ranked team.

The Czechs not only have one point more in their account, but also have the home advantage on their side.

Remaining matches in Round 6:

GROUP 1
Norway vs Switzerland – Saturday 2 June, 19:15 local time, live on ehfTV.com

GROUP 2
Montenegro vs Italy – Saturday 2 June, 17:30 local time, live on ehfTV.com

GROUP 3
Sweden vs Faroe Islands – Saturday 2 June, 16:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com
Serbia vs FYR Macedonia – Sunday 3 June, 18:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

GROUP 4
Romania vs Portugal – Sunday 3 June, 18:30 local time, live on ehfTV.com

GROUP 5
Denmark vs Iceland – Saturday 2 June, 16:10 local time, live on ehfTV.com

GROUP 6
Germany vs Turkey – Saturday 2 June, 16:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com
Spain vs Lithuania – Saturday 2 June, 18:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com

GROUP 7
Netherlands vs Kosovo – Saturday 2 June, 15:00 local time, live on ehfTV.com
Hungary vs Belarus – Saturday 2 June, 16:30 local time, live on ehfTV.com

written by Björn Pazen / cg / ts