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10.06.2012, 00:21
Only three teams with a clear sheet
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Ukraine, Israel and Romania open the gates widely in the first qualification stage for the Men’s 2014 EHF EURO.
 

Only three teams with a clear sheet

After two match days of the first qualification stage for the Men’s 2014 EHF EURO still eleven of 16 teams have chances to proceed to the second stage. But only three nations are with a clear sheet in those four tournaments played in Cyprus, Italy, Israel and Turkey: Ukraine in Group A and Romania and Israel in Group C – where the “final” of those unbeaten contenders will decide the Group winner on Sunday.

The four tournament winners and the two best ranked runners-up qualify for the second qualification stage played in Group matches from October on.

Group A in Nikosia, Cyprus:

After their sovereign opening victory against Finland (30:24), Ukraine was dominant against Luxemburg only in the first 30 minutes. The game seemed to be clearly decided with the halftime score of 20:7, before the Benelux team improved completely and won the second half 17:7. In the end Ukraine took a lucky 27:24 win, which brought them the lead in this group with four points.

Finland can hope for the second rank – or even the group victory depending on the final encounter of Cyprus vs. Ukraine. After being defeated by the Ukraine on Friday the Northern Europeans clashed host Cyprus 26:14 (11:6). Both teams have two points on their account – but Finland have the much easier task on Sunday against Luxemburg.

Group B in Bari, Italy:

Host Italy is programmed on draws against top teams: After the lucky 31:31 against Greece on Friday, now the tournament host was unlucky and disappointed against Switzerland, as they had the victory in their hands. 56 seconds before the end and a score of 21:20 Pasquale Maione failed with a penalty shot against the superb Swiss goalkeeper Pascal Stauber (15 saves in total) – and with the last attack Andy Schmid equalized for Switzerland. Top scorers in this thriller were Skatar (nine goals for Italy) and Hofstetter (five goals for Switzerland).

Before this neighbour’s duel Greece did their duty against the brave fighting British team, which showed one of their best performances in the last years. In the end the Greek team took a well-deserved 35:30 (21:13) victory. Top scorers were Mohr (8 goals for Great Britian) and Georgiadis (seven goals for Greece).

The situation is tricky before the last match day: The winner of the game Greece vs. Switzerland (both have three points on their account) is automatically the Group winner. If both teams tie and Italy (two points) beat Great Britain (0 points) the goal difference in the internal ranking of those three teams have to decide, as then all direct encounters of Greece, Switzerland and Italy would have ended with a draw.

Group C in Rishon Le Zion, Israel:

The very last match will have to bring the decision which team proceeds to the second qualification stage: Israel and Romania have taken their each second victory on Saturday, so the direct clash of those teams on Sunday will be the key. A draw is already enough for the Romanians thanks to their better goal difference (+44 compared to +42 of Israel).

Romania had an easy after on beating debutant Ireland clearly 39:11 (18:6). Host Israel had to struggle much harder to take both points against Belgium in a surprisingly equal match, won by Israel 31:28 (19:14). Belgium and Ireland are out of the race with still zero points.

Group D in Mersin, Turkey:

Like in Group B, still three teams can proceed to the next stage before the final day in Mersin: After their hard earned victory against Estonia the Turks were close to have their second Baltic party, but Latvia took a point against the tournament host in a real thriller. Turkey was in lead 11:8 at the break and could distance Latvia until the score of 19:17, before the Baltic team equalized and went away to 20:19. But by missing a decisive penalty shot in the last minute Latvia allowed Turkey the last attack – and the host equalized, so both teams have three points on their account. Whilst Estonia return on track with a record breaking 56:19 against debutant Malta, they have the fate in their hand again. With a victory in the Baltic duel against Latvia on Sunday, Mait Patrail & Co. can reach at minimum the second rank – but the Turks are clear favourite against Malta and have the best chances to qualify directly for the second stage.


TEXT: Björn Pazen
 
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