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13.01.2012, 11:03
Play-Off Places Still Undecided
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The race to qualify for the 2013 World Championship play-offs continues, with no team having secured their passage through following the latest round of matches.
 

Whilst Austria and Portugal are very close to reaching the Men’s World Championship 2013 Play-offs after clear away victories, the other groups are still full of tension. Netherlands and Switzerland missed the chance of early qualification in Round 5, while the other results were so close that none of the teams can be sure to proceed.

 

Group 1:
Israel vs. Austria 31:40 (17:19)

Austria made took a huge step towards the World Championship Play-offs. Thanks to their third straight victory the Austrians are nearly through to the play-offs, and even an eight-goal home defeat in their final match would be enough to proceed.

The hosts had to replace their two Bundesliga players Avishay Smoler and Chen Pomeranz due to injuries and stood no chance against the efficient Austrians after the break. But despite those missing players Israel looked strong in the first half. Right after the break they found new hope by equalising at 19:19, but the Austrians stepped up a gear and quickly went on to lead 33:25. Best Austrian scorers were Santos and Szilagyi with each eight goals.

Round 6:
Austria vs. Israel
Saturday, 14 January, 20:20 hrs local time, Maria Enzersdorf

 

Group 2:
Ukraine vs. Portugal 21:25 (7:12)

Portugal are close to reaching the play-offs after a totally dominant performance in Ukraine. The Iberians can afford to lose the re-match by three goals and still qualify.

Thanks to a 6:1 run of goals after being level at 6:6, the Portuguese team returned to the dressing rooms with a five-goal lead at the break. Thanks also to a strong defence and the eight goals of Fabio Magalhaes, the guests kept this margin and were 19:14 ahead mid-way through the second half. In the end Ukraine could only reduce the deficit to four goals.

Swedish coach Mats Olson was very satisfied with his Portuguese team: "Due to all circumstances of preparation and travel it was the best we could reach. But all the players know that after this victory nothing is decided yet and that we have to continue with the same concentration."

Round 6:
Portugal vs. Ukraine

Sunday, 15 January, 15:00 hrs local time, Espinho

 

Group 3:
Latvia vs. Montenegro 30:31 (14:17)

Advantage Montenegro: Their close one-goal margin victory put them two points ahead, and the Balkan team have built a great base for the re-match on home ground. The Latvian’s led 9:8 but that was their only advantage –in the second half the hosts were close to a disaster, when Montenegro extended the gap easily to 27:20.

But Latvia showed fighting spirit and morale, and even went close to turning the game around in the final stages. However, the catch-up came too late. But an away victory with a two-goal margin is still enough for the Baltic side, so Montenegro should be on their guard!

Round 6:
Montenegro vs. Latvia
Saturday, 14 January, 18:00 hrs local time, Cetinje

 

Group 4:
Netherlands vs. Estonia 35:35 (19:20)

The Netherlands missed their first chance to qualify for the World Championship Play-offs. By winning the first leg the Dutch team would have qualified automatically, but now the Estonians can still turn their fortunes around on home ground, but they need a victory. Still unbeaten Netherlands have five points on their account, Estonia three.

The game was a nail-biting thriller until the final second. Netherlands started brilliantly and led 12:6 and 14:8, but the roller coaster soon changed direction as Estonia equalised at 14:14 and then took the lead.

The second half was completely on edge with no team being able to extend the gap to more than two goals. Estonia seemed to be heading for victory with three straight goals to take it to 32:30. But the host returned, despite Bobby Schagen missing a penalty shot two minutes before the end. Estonia tried to decide the game in the final stages, but top star Mait Patrail missed several shots against Dutch goalkeeper Gerrie Ejlers.

Four seconds before the end (with the score at 35:35) the host had a great chance to score, but Nicky Verjans missed the goal. "We still have every chance to qualify in Estonia," Dutch assistant coach Mark Schmetz said. Top scorer was Bartek Konitz with eight goals for the Netherlands.

Round 6:
Estonia vs. Netherlands
Saturday, 14 January, 16:00 hrs local time, Polva

 

 

Group 5:
Switzerland vs. Lithuania 26:28 (12:12)

A home victory would have been enough for Switzerland to qualify for the Play-offs, but now they could struggle to proceed to the next stage. This surprising first defeat in their third match meant that Lithuania are still in with a shout after their lucky draw at Italy in Round 4. With five points on their account and the re-match at home, the Baltic team have a huge advantage compared to Switzerland (4 points).

Lithuania started with a 10:6 lead in Schaffhausen, but the hosts were able to equalise at the break. In the second half the Swiss narrowly led 15:14 mid-way through the period, but that was their best scoreline and the guests dominated the match and took latest full control at the score of 24:20. However, the host started their catch-up chase and were close to turn the game at 26:27 one minute before the end, when the final Lithuanian goals decided the game – despite two disqualifications against Andriuskas and Grosas in the last ten minutes.

Top scorer was Atajevas with 10 goals for Lithuania, Schmid. Liniger and Scheuner each scored five for the Swiss, who now need an away victory on Sunday to proceed to the Play-offs.

Round 6:
Lithuania vs. Switzerland
Sunday, 15 January,19:00 hrs local time, Vilnius

 

Group 6:
Bosnia Herzegovina vs. Greece 31:29 (15:17)

Nothing is decided in Group 6 after Round 5: Greece still have their fate in their hands, with a two-goal margin of victory in the final match enough to proceed to the play-offs.

The guests dominated the first half and the biggest gap was 15:11 for the Greek team thanks to goalkeeper Kostas Tsilibari, who saved ten shots in the first 30 minutes.

Greece was in the lead until the 46th minute when the score was 24:23, before the hosts turned the game at 27:24. When Greece did not score for five minutes, later-on the Balkan team decided the match at 31:27, before Albanian and Tzimourto reduced the gap to two goals and gave new hope for the Hellenics. "Our team showed character. We still remain the underdog, but we still have every chance," Greek coach Giorgos Kranakis said after the game, attended by more than 3000 fans.

Round 6:
Greece vs. Bosnia Herzegovina
Sunday, 15 January, 20:00 hrs local time, Thessaloniki

 

Group 7:
Romania vs. Belarus 25:22 (12:14)

A three-goal margin could be enough for Belarus to reach the play-offs – this is the situation after the first duel of the Eastern European heavyweights on their way to Spain, as Belarus is known to be stronger on home ground.

3,500 spectators in Bucharest saw another thriller in which the Belorussians were in front for most of the first half. But the Romanians fought back, took the lead right after the break and battled hard right to the end to hold on to the lead. When Ghita scored to take it to 24:22 two minutes before the end, the winner was clear – and Ghionnea’s late goal increased the winning margin and boosted Romanian chances in Minsk on Sunday. Top scorer in the match was Siarhei Rutenka with six goals for Belarus.

Round 6:
Belarus vs. Romania
Sunday, 15 January, 14:30 hrs local time, Minsk

 


TEXT: Björn Pazen
 
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