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21.01.2012, 12:21
A starting phase full of surprises
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Summary of the Preliminary Round of the EHF EURO 2012: Both WCh finalist proceed with zero points.
 

A starting phase full of surprises

All 24 matches of the Preliminary Round of the EHF EURO 2012 have been played –and the list of surprises is very long.

Both finalists of the 2011 World Championship in Sweden – France and Denmark – just so reached the Main Round, but only taking the surprising minimum of 0 points with them. Both might need support of a miracle to proceed to the semi-finals.

Like in 2010 the great handball nation Russia failed to go through to the Main Round, but this year it also means their first ever missing of the Olympic Games.

In contrast, teams like Hungary, Germany and FYR Macedonia managed to surprise the experts in a positive way. Hosts Serbia are in an excellent position for reaching their first semi-final since 2001, when they in the end took the Bronze medal at the World Championships.

The summary of the four groups:

Group A in Belgrade

The unstoppable Serbians had won this group already after the second match day, after beating Poland and also Denmark thanks to the strong Serbian shooters like Ilic, but especially thanks to goalkeeper Stanic. Their tie in their last match against the already eliminated team from Slovakia did not have any effect. The unsatisfactory performance of the Danish team ended in a thrillingly close one-goal defeat against Poland. Therefore the Polish team proceeds to the Main Round with 2 points with Serbia (4 points) and Denmark (0 points).

Group B in Nis

Two elements wrote the story of this group: the impressively enthusiastic fan crowd of FYR Macedonia and the rollercoaster of the German team. After losing the opener against the Czech Republic the Germans were close to book their return flights, but with a one-goal victory against FYR Macedonia they showed a sign of life followed by a clear victory over Sweden, which paved the way to the Main Round in Belgrade. The very last match had to decide the whole constellation of this group. Pushed by 4.000 fantastic spectators FYR Macedonia beat and eliminated the Czechs. Like Sweden, the Balkan team start with 1 point in Belgrade, while the Germans have the optimum base with 4:0.

Group C in Novi Sad

World Champions France – the dominant team and winner of all major titles since 2008 – seem to have lost their track. The defending EHF EURO champions only have a very small chance to go further in the tournament after first having lost their opener to Spain in a highlight match and then – even more surprising – losing the final encounter against Hungary. With 0 points they are placed on the last position at the start of the Main Round in Novi Sad. In this Preliminary Round Group of surprises the Hungarians and Spaniards remained unbeaten – and tied in their direct encounter, in which a last second penalty goal brought one point to Hungary. Both will proceed to the next stage with 3 points on his account. The Russians, who had arrived in Belgrade with the clear plan to book a ticket for the Olympic Qualification Tournament, had to pack their bags early after only collecting one point against Hungary.

Group D in Vrsac

As expected, Croatia finished ranked first in this group. After three straight victories they will take the optimum of 4 points with them to the Main Round in Novi Sad, where the Balkan team will be the only ones to start with a clear spot. The race for the Main Round qualification was again an absolute thriller in this Group, as nothing was decided before the last game. In the end Norway, Iceland and Slovenia were equal in points after every team beating one of the other opponents and losing to the other one of them. The goal difference had to decide, and Slovenia was one goal ahead of Iceland who then again were one goal ahead of the unluckily eliminated Norwegians. As Slovenia had won the direct encounter, they take 2 points to Novi Sad, and Iceland start with zero.

Olympic Qualification

With the start of the Main Round the fight for the two tickets for the Olympic Qualification Tournament gets even more intense, especially in Belgrade. In this Main Round group, only Denmark and Sweden have already qualified for those tournaments, as the other four teams head for them. In Novi Sad only Slovenia is fighting for those tickets, as the rest is already qualified.


TEXT: Björn Pazen
 
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