Just one point is separating Russia from qualifying for the semi-final at the EHF EURO 2018 in France. If the Olympic champions keep their unbeaten main round record intact and earn at least a draw against Denmark in Nantes on Monday, they will finish on top of the group and become the first nation to lock up a spot among the four best teams at the tournament.
Later on Monday, Serbia and Montenegro will try to keep their chances for Group I’s second semi-final spot alive until the last main round day.
Denmark vs Russia
Monday 10 December, 18:00 CET, live on ehfTV.com
Less than 24 hours after their rescheduled match against Serbia, Group I leaders Russia will take to the court again in Hall XXL in Nantes on Monday evening.
Against Denmark, coach Evgenii Trefilov’s team will get the first chance to secure top spot in the group and thus end a 10-year semi-final drought at EHF EURO events.
Russia are currently on six points and just one point against Denmark would be enough to stay out of reach of all other teams in Group I. Only France could still finish on seven as well, but Russia have the better head-to-head result after beating the hosts in the tournament’s opening game 11 days ago.
Backs Anna Vyakhireva and Daria Dmitrieva were excellent for Russia in both defence and attack during Sunday’s 29:25 win over Serbia. If they can show similar performances against Denmark, it will be hard to see past Russia as the winners of Group I.
For Vyakhireva, however, her team’s remaining matches against Denmark and Sweden will not be easy.
“We have a lot of really hard games in front of us. We will keep focused,” said Vyakhireva, who was named Player of the Match against Serbia.
One of the three teams in the group with two points, Denmark are left with just a slim chance of reaching the semi-finals. Only a win against Russia will count for coach Klavs Bruun Jorgensen’s team, as any other result would rob Denmark even the mathematical possibility to advance.
Serbia vs Montenegro
Monday 10 December, 21:00 CET, live on ehfTV.com
Serbia and Montenegro meet for a true do-or-die duel, as the winners might still dream of playing the semi-finals, while the losers are officially out of the race.
Both teams are currently on two points, and the winners will leapfrog Sweden into third place to sit one point short of France. If it is Serbia who celebrate a victory on Monday, it would leave them with all to play for on the final main round day on Wednesday, when they take on the world champions.
Serbia will rely once more on Katarina Krpez Slezak, who is the tournament’s top scorer with 33 goals, and coach Ljubomir Obradovic is well aware what awaits his team when the Balkan neighbours clash in Nantes.
“We know each other very well, Serbia and Montenegro. It will be a tough derby, a prestigious match for both teams,” Obradovic said after Serbia’s defeat against Russia on Sunday evening.
Montenegro entered the main round on zero points after defeats against Russia and France, but they kept their small semi-final hopes alive with an excellent 30:28 win over Sweden four days ago.
In order to beat Serbia, the 2012 champions put their hopes on the trio of Durdina Jaukovic (24 goals), Jovanka Radicevic (23) and Majda Mehmedovic (20) as no other Montenegro player so far has scored 10 goals or more.