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02.04.2013, 11:43
The race for Denmark continues
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EHF EURO 2014 qualification preview: Ukraine vs. Netherlands opens round 3 on 2 April, while another eight matches will be played on 3 April. Live ticker available for many matches
 

The race for Denmark continues

The race for the 15 tickets to the Men’s EHF EURO 2014 in Denmark continues after a five month break with the rounds 3 and 4 being played from 2 to 7 April.

The third round of the qualification throws off in Kiev with the match Ukraine vs. Netherlands on Tuesday.

This is the preview for the nine matches on 2 and 3 April.

Many matches can be followed via a designated live ticker provided by the European Handball Federation.

All 28 teams involved in this qualification face the same opponent twice, and after the first two rounds were played in November 2012 the time has come when the wheat will be separated from the chaff.

Ten of the 28 teams can boast a 100 per cent clean record before the upcoming matches with two victories from their first two encounters.

13 of the 28 teams participated at the 2013 World Championship in Spain, with three of four semi-finalists being involved in the EHF EURO 2014 qualification, while hosts (and defending champions) Denmark are directly qualified for the final tournament.

Following the conclusion of this qualification phase in June, the two top ranked teams of each group as well as the best third ranked team of all seven groups will qualify for the EHF EURO 2014.

The best third ranked team is determined as follows: A ranking of those teams ranked third in each group (a total of seven teams) will be established.

This ranking will include only the results of those four matches of the third ranked team against the teams ranked first and second in the respective group.

The matches against the teams ranked fourth in the group will not be considered.

Group 1: FYR Macedonia vs. Spain; Wednesday, 17:45 hrs. local time, Skopje

Does a new head coach bring new success? This is the question before the clash of FYR Macedonia with the world champions from Spain.

After FYR Macedonia lost against Germany in the round of the last 16 at the World Championship, Ivica Obrvan has replaced Zvonko Shundovski, and the former coach of RK Zagreb is now  in charge of steering the national team to Denmark.

However, the situation before the two matches against the world champions is quite tricky, as FYR Macedonia lost their away match against Portugal in round 2 - therefore the pressure is on for top star Kiril Lazarov, playing for Spanish side Atletico Madrid, and his teammates.

Spain are on a high after their triumph on home ground – and can make a huge step towards Denmark after two confident victories in the first two rounds.

Group 2: Montenegro vs. Israel; Wednesday, 18:00 hrs. local time, Podgorica

What is the real face of the Montenegrin men’s national team?

The squad of coach Zoran Kastratovic was the biggest surprise in the first two qualification rounds by beating Germany and Czech Republic, but at the World Championship Montenegro it showed some disappointing performances and was the only European team to miss the round of the last 16.

However, Vasko Sevaljevic and his teammates want to turn the tides again in their favour with two victories against Israel. If they win both matches, they are almost sure of a berth at EHF EURO 2014 due to a then maximum of eight points from four matches.

But Israel proved against Germany, when they were on eye level for nearly 50 minutes, that they are a always a force to reckon with.

Group 3: Turkey vs. Lithuania; Wednesday, 18:00 hrs. local time, Cankaya

Only the winner of this double header can keep the hope to qualify for the EHF EURO 2014, as both Turkey and Lithuania have zero points in their accounts.

Playing the first match on home ground the Turkish side is arguably in the favourite's role, but Lithuania can rely on more international experience.

Group 3: Norway vs. France; Wednesday, 19:10 hrs. local time, Stavanger

Two-times Olympic champions France are in transition, as some players of the “golden generation” like Guillaume Gille or Didier Dinart have finished their international career.

Furthermore the team of coach Claude Onesta is hit hard by injuries of key players like William Accambray, Michael Guigou or Bertrand Gille.

With some new faces – but also world stars like Karabatic, Omeyer, Abalo or Narcisse -  in his team, Onesta is going into the encounters against Norway.

However, the changes in the French team might be the chance for Norway, that have also four points in their account and are strengthened by their brilliant talent Kent Robin Tönessen, to stop France.

But like Onesta, Norwegian coach Robert Hedin has a rejuvenated squad with only three players who have more than 100 international matches under their belt.

Despite the home advantage Norway are the underdog in this encounter – but still are the favourites in the race for Denmark compared to Lithuania and Turkey.

Group 4: Latvia vs. Slovakia; Wednesday, 19:05 hrs. local time, Dobele

The duel of tall Latvian shooter Dainis Kristopans against his teammates of Slovak champions, Tatran Presov, is the focus of this match.

Both teams lost their games in rounds 1 and 2, but both have hopes to finish as best third ranked team behind the favourites from Croatia and Hungary.

Group 5: Ukraine vs. Netherlands; Tuesday, 19:00 hrs. local time, Kiev

As in Group 4 the two opponents of the round 3 opener have lost both matches in the first two rounds.

And yet again only the aggregate winner of this duel can hope to remain in the race for Denmark.

On home ground Ukraine are the clear favourites as they will be strongly backed by their spectators in Kiev.

Handball fans can follow the match via this live stream.

Group 6: Romania vs. Belarus; Wednesday, 18:00 hrs. local time, Piatra Neamt

Will history repeat itself or can Romania take revenge?

Belarus beat Romania one year ago in the pre-qualification for the 2013 World Championship by aggregate goals and afterwards did not only manage to qualify for the final tournament in Spain, but also reached the round of the last 16.

Led by world star Siarhei Rutenka, Belarus proved their strengths already in round 2 with a draw against world championship semi-finalists Slovenia.

As every point in this highly contested group counts, in which the Romanians lost their first two matches against Slovenia and Iceland, the squad of Romanian head coach Elionor Voica is aiming high to take the win on home ground and hope for a sensation in Minsk on Sunday.

Group 6: Slovenia vs. Iceland; Wednesday, 20:15 hrs. local time, Maribor

The 'rising stars of European handball' against the 'Vikings' is the top duel in this group.

Iceland have the maximum of four points in their account and can count on the prowess of Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson, currently the best scorer of the qualification.

However, Slovenia have improved siginificantly in the previous months, reaching the semi-finals at the World Championship.

Players like Borut Mackovsek, Jure Dolenec or Gaspar Marguc have played themselves into the focus of international top clubs and have proved their talents.

But Slovenia gave away a point against Belarus – and now feel the Belarussian breath in their necks.

Group 7: Austria vs. Serbia; Wednesday, 20:25 hrs. local time, Graz

The hosts of EHF EURO 2010 (Austria) and 2012 (Serbia) face each other on Wednesday in Graz.

After beating Bosnia and Herzegovina and losing to Russia, Austria now hope for another victory against the current EHF EURO 2012 silver medallists, after they had beaten Serbia in the preliminary round at EHF EURO 2010.

But Serbia will be backed by experienced players like Momir Ilic or Darko Stanic, who wanted to finish their international career after the 2013 World Championship, but continue to support the national team for the duration of the qualification.

Serbia top the table with four points and another two wins against Austria could already mean the qualification for Denmark.

An overview of all qualification matches for the EHF EURO 2014 can be found here.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
 
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