There is only one main round berth still to be claimed after the first two rounds of Groups C and D, but everything is still to be played for as the teams vie to take as many points as possible through to the next round of the EHF EURO 2018.
The top two attacking sides in the competition are clashing in Group D, with Romania hoping to preserve their winning streak against Norway, while the clash between Spain and Hungary will decide who will get the better position in Nancy. The Netherlands have already claimed first place in the group and will throw off the next phase with four points.
Netherlands vs Croatia
Wednesday 5 December, 18:00 CET, live on ehfTV.com
What a difference two seconds can make. The Netherlands needed a last-gasp goal from Lois Abbingh in the game against Spain to seal the group win and they did just in the dying seconds.
With Croatia out of the picture after two losses, and the Dutch side assured of their first place in the group, coach Helle Thomsen can now prepare for the main round. The Netherlands will play the winner of Group D on 9 December in Nancy, with the group win giving them precious rest time.
It is the fourth EHF EURO main round in a row for the 2016 silver medallists. A win on Wednesday would be their 15th in 35 games at the EHF EURO.
The match against the Netherlands is the last EHF EURO game for a young and inexperienced Croatian side, as the defeats against Hungary and Spain sealed their fate. For Nenad Sostaric’s team it will be the fourth consecutive preliminary round exit. Croatia have only won two of their past 12 games at the EHF EURO.
Hungary vs Spain
Wednesday 5 December, 21:00 CET, live on ehfTV.com
While the first round of the competition saw the most of goals since the format was changed in 2002, Hungary and Spain are still relying on their defence to do the hard work and earn wins.
Alongside Russia the two sides conceded the least goals in the competition – 46 each – in the first two rounds.
Both Spain and Hungary lost against the Netherlands and beat Croatia, earning their main round berths. Yet they are currently starting the next phase with zero points, making the mutual encounter that much more important.
The winner will take the points into the next round, making this a crucial game for both teams in their quest for a semi-final spot.
“I am not really happy about how we played, but I am happy that we are through. A tough game against Spain looms,” said Kim Rasmussen, Hungary’s coach.
Spain and Hungary have met three times in the EHF EURO in the past 10 years, with Spain taking two wins, while Hungary managed one win. No game has been decided by more than two goals.
Germany vs Czech Republic
Wednesday 5 December, 18:00 CET, live on ehfTV.com
Fate can be cruel. Despite producing the biggest upset of the competition when they beat Norway in the first round, Germany could be on their way home if they lose against the Czech Republic, after a 24:29 defeat to Romania on Monday.
A draw is enough for the Germans to go through. A loss of more than eight goals is the end of their tournament.
Still, the Czech side will be poised to avenge their worst ever defeat in the EHF EURO, after being soundly beaten 31:17 by Norway on Monday. If they win the game against Germany and Norway go on to draw or win against Romania, the Czechs will progress.
If they win by eight goals or more, then whatever the outcome of the next match, they will progress and Germany will miss out. It would be the first main round berth for the Czech Republic since 2002.
It will be a special game for Czech captain Iveta Luzumova, who has been plying her trade in the German Bundesliga for six years at current champions Thüringer HC.
“Of course we want to win against Germany, but right now we need to pick ourselves up after these two defeats. The next game will mean a lot to me, as I have been living in Germany for the past six years,” said Luzumova.
The two sides have played five competitive games, with Germany taking four wins.
Norway vs Romania
Wednesday, 5 December, 21:00hrs CET, live on ehfTV.com
“We looked to be more united than ever,” said a smiling Melinda Geiger, after the Romanian right back scored three goals in the 29:24 win against Germany that sealed a main round spot for Romania.
The Romanian side is one of the four sides with a 100% record in the first two rounds, yet their biggest challenge looms as they prepare to face Norway. In five previous EHF EURO games between the two, Romania has won just one.
Both sides are already through to the main round, but there is still a question about how many points they will take forward. Romania are sure of at least two points after their wins against Germany and the Czech Republic.
First place in the group is also up for grabs, although this relies on the result of the match between Germany and the Czech Republic as well as the outcome of the Romania vs Norway clash.
Defence will be key in this crucial game for both sides, as they are the two sides with the best attacks in the competition after the first two rounds.
Norway already scored 63 goals, while Romania managed 60. However they boast the top goal scorer of the competition. Eliza Buceschi has scored 20 in two games.