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04.04.2013, 22:45
Hungary and Czech Republic win top duels
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Germany on the edge following a second defeat, while Sweden keep a clean record in the EHF EURO 2014 qualification
 

Hungary and Czech Republic win top duels

Round 3 of the EHF EURO 2014 qualification concluded on Thursday night with matches. Hungary and Sweden remain unbeaten after their victories against Croatia and Poland.

Czech Republic celebrated a crucial victory over Germany and – like Russia (after beating Bosnia and Herzegovina) - have four points in their account.

Round 4 will be played on Saturday and Sunday when the first tickets for the final tournament in Denmark can already be confirmed.

The seven group winners, the seven second ranked teams and the best third ranked team qualify for Denmark when the qualification concludes with  rounds 5 and 6 in the middle of June 2013.

An overview of all EHF EURO 2014 qualification matches is available here.

Group 1: Switzerland vs. Portugal 26:26 (13:15)

More than 2000 spectators at the Kreuzbleiche arena in St. Gallen not only saw a real thriller, but also the first draw of the EHF EURO 2014 qualification.

In the end the Swiss team was lucky to take one point as they trailed Portugal for almost the entire second half, while Portugal gave a clear lead and an important away victory from their hands.

With three points in their account Portugal are ahead of FYR Macedonia (2) but behind Spain (6) in this group. Switzerland gained the first point in their third match.

Top scorers in this exciting encounter were Andy Schmid (8 goals for Switzerland) and Carlos Carneiro (6 goals for Portugal).

At the beginning the hosts went away by 6:3, before Portugal improved their defence and accelerated in attack.

Thanks to an 8:3 series they turned the match around at 11:9  and when the score stood at 12:12, it was the last time that the result was level until the final minute of the match.

At the beginning of the second half Portugal forged ahead, usually leading by three or four goals.

The Swiss team tried hard to get closer, but it took until the final stages, before the team of Goran Perkovac – led by Andy Schmid – was again only one goal behind at 20:21.

However, the hosts could try what they want, they were not able to take the lead, as Portugal were clever enough in attack.

90 seconds before the end Andrija Pendic scored to make it 25:26, biut after a time-out called by Perkovac it was Marco Kurth, who equalised 40 seconds before the final buzzer.

Portugal took their time-out, but Gilberto Duarte missed the final chance for them to win.

Group 2: Czech Republic vs. Germany 24:22 (10:10)

A brilliant goalkeeper Peter Stochl (17 saves), an unstoppable Filip Jicha (10 goals, seven before the break), a spectacular atmosphere in Brno and a slowly worsening German performance in the final 45 minutes paved the way for this crucial Czech victory.

The hosts now have four points in their account (two behind Montenegro), while the Germans remain on two points.

Only goalkeeper Silvio Heinevetter and Stefan Weinhold (9 goals) kept their usual performing level, while the rest of the team lost their rhythm completely after dominant first 15 minutes when the score stood at 8:4 in  the favour of Germany.

Led by Jicha’s seven goals, the Czech team equalised at the break and then took full control in the starting period of the second half.

Until the 14:13 Germany were on eye level, then Stochl’s saves gave confidence to the hosts.

Scoring a 6:1 series to make it 20:14 and keeping the distance until 22:16, while German Michael Haaß received a straight red card, became the decisive factors in the match – even though the Germans could stop their downswing by some counter-attack goals.

But in the final stages, when the Czech attackers ran out of power, Stochl shut up his goal. Weinhold reduced the gap to 23:22, but finally another Jicha goal secured this important victory.

Group 4: Hungary vs. Croatia 20:18 (8:7)

Hungary took revenge for a series of defeats against Croatia at the EHF EURO 2012, at the 2012 Olympic Games and at the 2013 World Championship.

After winning the battle against Croatia, the Hungarians have a perfect base for the rest of the qualification with the maximum of six points, two points ahead the Croats who lost their first match in this group.

The match also became the encounter with the least amount of goals being scored in the EHF EURO 2014 qualification phase two match so far.

It took the two squads 53 minutes to score the first 30 goals when the score stood at 15:15.

Today’s top duel was no handball highlight, as both teams had enormous problems in attack with a huge number of missed shots and turnovers.

In the end it was a full defensive battle, mostly marked by the goalkeepers Mirko Alilovic (Croatia, playing for Hungarian side MKB Veszprem) and Roland Mikler.

After 20 minutes the score stood at 4:4; following four straight goals Croatia had forged ahead to 10:8, before the hosts managed to equalise again at 11:11 in minute 42 after they had needed nine minutes to score their first goal after the break.

In the final stages Hungary decided the match by three consecutive goals that made it 18:16, as they were not impressed at all by a red card against their defence ace Timuszin Schuch.

Close to the final whistle Kornel Nagy decided the game, scoring to make it 20:18 – it was his fifth goal in his fifth attempt.

Top scorers were Gabor Csaszar (6 goals for Hungary) and Dennis Buntic and Zlatko Horvat with 4 goals each for the Croats.

Group 5: Sweden vs. Poland  28:21 (12:11)

Like Spain, Montenegro, France and Iceland, Sweden are the fifth team to make it three wins from three EHF EURO  2014 qualification matches.

In the top duel of group 5 the Olympic silver medallists beat Poland thanks to an improvement after the break.

Following their first defeat in this qualification phase, Poland rank second with four points. The re-match in Gdansk might already bring a decision concerning the qualification for the EHF EURO 2014 in Denmark.

In the match, in which Kim Andersson celebrated a comeback as it was his first international appearance since the 2012 Olympic final, both teams were on eye level for the first 30 minutes.

When Poland had led 14:13, Andersson scored a double strike and turned the match.

In the end the seven goals of Andreas Nilsson made the difference compared to the rejuvenated Polish team, which missed some experienced players due to injuries.

7,426 spectators celebrated, when Sweden marched with ease through the Polish defence – while at the same time the hosts' defence improved at  stopping the famous Polish back court aces.

Group 7: Bosnia Herzegovina vs. Russia 23:32 (12:16)

Group 7 is wide open again after six of overall 12 matches have been played.

After Austria had beaten Serbia on Wednesday, Russia had no problem to take their second victory less than 24 hours later.

All those three teams now have 4 points in their accounts, while Bosnia and Herzegovina's chances - being still on zero points - to reach the EHF EURO 2014 are less than slim.

The Chekhovskie Medvedi players Sergij Gorbok and Timur Dibirov were the top Russian scorers with five goals each, no Bosnian player scored more than four goals.

Russia paved the way for the clear victory by an outstanding start, leading 9:2, before the hosts caught-up to a four goal margin at the break.

But the Russian team of head coach Vladimir Maximov stayed in control of the match despite an early disqualification against Sergej Shelmenko after only 31 minutes.

His teammates were not shocked and Russia extended the gap with four straight goals to a seven-goal lead at 21:14.

At 24:15 the difference was nine goals for the first time – and that is where it remained until the final whistle.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
 
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