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05.04.2013, 12:50
Three Olympic semi-finalists take to the court on Saturday
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EHF EURO 2014 qualification preview for 6 April: France and Hungary can make huge steps towards the final tournament, while Croatia want to bounce back after loss in round 3
 

Three Olympic semi-finalists take to the court on Saturday

Round 4 of the EHF EURO 2014 qualification throws off on Saturday (6 April) with three matches and three 2012 Olympic semi-finalists taking to the court.

The top match will be played in Zagreb, where Croatia hope to bounce back after they lost the first match against Hungary on Thursday.

Round 4 will continue with eleven matches on Sunday, before the final two rounds will be played in June 2013.

The seven group winners, the seven second ranked teams and the best third ranked team qualify for Denmark.

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.

A complete overview of all qualification matches can be found here

Group 2: Israel vs. Montenegro; Saturday, 19:45 hrs. local time, Rishon Le Zion - First leg: 28:29

If Montenegro beat Israel, they have reached the EHF EURO in Denmark with almost 100 per cent certainty.

If they win, the team would have eight points in their account, and regardless of their final results against Germany and Czech Republic in June, this should be enough for at least finishing as best third ranked team.

However, the team of coach Zoran Kastratovic needs to be aware in Rishon Le Zion.

They must be warned due to their very lucky victory in the first leg against Israel when they scored the decisive goal only 20 seconds before the end.

Israel have zero points in their account. In case of a Montenegrin victory and a German defeat on Sunday against Czech Republic, Montenegro and the Czechs would have already secured the qualification for Denmark.

Group 3: France vs. Norway; Saturday, 18:30 hrs. local time, Nancy - First leg: 29:22

"Our young team played fantastic for 50 minutes," said Norwegian coach Robert Hedin despite the defeat against the Olympic champions in the first leg on Wednesday.

Hedin hopes for continuing this way, but knows that his team is the underdog at Nancy.

"But still we have all our chances (for qualifying for the final tournament) in our hands," Hedin said, as Norway have already four points in their account.

On the other hand the hosts can already qualify for the EHF EURO, if they beat Norway and Turkey do not win against Lithuania on Sunday.

"Norway were much stronger than I had expected," French top scorer Luc Abalo said, "but I believe in our confidence for the re-match, too, though we have to replace a big number of big names."

And goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer, match winner in the first leg, added: "We were patient enough to win at Norway, so I am sure that we will also be patient enough to win on home ground."

Group 4: Croatia vs. Hungary;  Saturday, 18:30 hrs. local time, Zagreb - First leg: 18:20

"The result of the first leg will make us feel quite easy at Zagreb," Hungarian coach Lajos Mocsai said after winning the battle against Croatia on Thursday, in which both goalkeepers - Roland Mikler (Hungary) and Mirko Alilovic (Croatia) - were in the focus.

Beating Croatia in the re-match of the London 2012 Olympic bronze-final meant a clear signal for the Hungarians.

"The step was huge, but we want to go the same way in Zagreb," said Hungarian Cornel Nagy, who decided the first leg with his goals in the final stages.

If his team wins and Slovakia beat Latvia on Sunday, Hungary are already qualified for the EHF EURO 2014.  

However, Croatia are in the favourite's role, as they play in their 'handball temple', the Arena Zagreb, which is expected to be sold out with 15,000 spectators.

"We missed too many chances and conceded some stupid goals," explained Croatia's coach Slavko Goluza the reasons for the loss in Veszprem.

Furthermore Jakov Gojun and Blazenko Lackovic got injured and might miss the re-match.

But goalkeeper Alilovic is still confident for the next clash.

"We weren't lucky when we lost in Hungary, but we will turn the page at home – and even win by more than two goals to finish on top of the group in the end."


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
 
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