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06.06.2012, 19:21
Ukraine favourites to top Group A
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Ukraine, Cyprus, Finland and Luxembourg travel to Cyprus as they look to qualify for EHF EURO 2014
 

Ukraine favourites to top Group A

Group A: Ukraine, Cyprus, Finland, Luxembourg
Venue: Nicosia, Cyprus

Ukraine is, on paper at least, the strongest nation in Group A of the first phase of qualification for EHF EURO 2014, not only because they are the only team to have played in EHF EURO final tournaments - a total of five times - but also because have the most international experience including a large number of players like their top star Sergiy Onufriyenko.

Onufriyenko has played several times in the VELUX EHF Champions League. Alongside Onufriyenko, Sergii Burka is another key player for the Ukraine.

However, due to two defeats against Portugal in qualification for the 2013 World Championship and their failed qualification attempt for EHF EURO 2012 - with just one win from six matches – Ukraine have to start their qualification campaign in Phase 1 of the EHF EURO 2014 qualification process.

Luxembourg, Cyprus and Finland all failed to qualify for EHF EURO 2012 in Serbia and for the 2013 World Championship.

In both competitions Luxembourg, coached by Romanian Adrian Stot, failed to secure a single point but went close to an upset at home against Belarus in January 2012 losing 33:32, with a team including top players Jeff Decker and Eric Schroeder.

Youth programme paying dividends for Finns

In contrast to the Benelux team, Finland have improved enormously in recent years. Their youngsters won the EHF/IHF Challenge Trophy in 2009 and went on to win the IHF Intercontinental Trophy.

Thanks to a strong youth programme the Finnish team came very close to reaching the second stage of qualification for EHF EURO 2012, finishing equal on points with Latvia and Italy, but lost out on goal difference.

In pre-qualification for the 2013 World Championship they beat Estonia, thanks largely to a great display from their top star Jac Karlsson.

Cyprus finished their 2013 World Championship pre-qualification campaign without any points and in June 2010 they missed out on the second qualification round for EHF EURO 2012 despite securing three points. 

Top players for Cyprus are Giorgos Papakyprianou and Marios Efstathiades.

EHF EURO History
Ukraine (5 appearances at EHF EUROs) 2000: 12th / 2002: 11th / 2004: 15th / 2006: 12th / 2010: 16th
Cyprus, Finland, Luxembourg (0 appearances at EHF EUROs)


TEXT: Björn Pazen
 
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