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11.06.2013, 10:33
Qualification for the EHF EURO 2014 goes into its final stages
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Round 5 of the EHF EURO 2014 qualification throws off on Wednesday (12 June). While several teams can secure their berth at the final tournament in Denmark, the tough fight to become the best third ranked team will last until the conclusion of round 6 on 16 June
 

Qualification for the EHF EURO 2014 goes into its final stages

After four rounds of the qualification for the EHF EURO 2014 in Denmark have been played, three teams have already booked their tickets to the final tournament: Olympic champions France, world champions Spain and Iceland.

The fight for the remaining 12 spots will start on Wednesday and Thursday (12/13 June) when the fifth round will be played.

ehftv.com, the European Handball Federation's designated online TV platform, will stream the matches Russia vs. Serbia, Switzerland vs. FYR Macedonia and Montenegro vs. Germany on Wednesday, 12 June, live.

For the first time it is not only the two teams ranked first and second in their groups that will book their ticket for the final tournament, but also the best third ranked team.

For this ranking only the matches against the two top teams of the groups are taken into account. Currently teams of groups 2, 6 and 7 have the best chances to take the 15th spot for the final tournament.

Only five days after the completion of the qualification the draw for the preliminary round will take place in Herning, the final venue of the EHF EURO 2014, ahead of a match between Denmark and Poland on Friday, 21 June.

Group 1: Switzerland vs. FYR Macedonia; Wednesday, 20:00 hrs. local time in Zürich

It is the last chance for FYR Macedonia to keep their hopes alive – but the team of head coach Ivica Obrvan does not have the fate in their hands after the double-defeat against Spain in April.

With only two points in their account Kiril Lazarov and his teammates need to win both remaining matches against Switzerland and Portugal to secure the second rank in the group. However, if Portugal gain one point in their match against Spain on Wednesday, chances for FYR Macedonia are wearing even slimmer, as they lost 25:32 against Portugal.

Switzerland already missed out on the chance to qualify for Denmark.

Group 1: Portugal vs. Spain; Wednesday, 21:30 hrs. local time in Guimaraes

Portugal can write history in this duel: With already five points in their account (including the crucial 32:25 against FYR Macedonia on home ground), a draw already might be enough to book the ticket for Denmark.

Spain are one of three teams with the 100 clean record after four matches – and the game in Guimares will also be historic for the defending world champions, as it is the first for new national team coach Manoel Cadenas, the successor of Valero Rivera, who is now coach of 2015 world championship hosts Qatar.

A draw against Portugal would already secure the group victory for Spain ahead of their final match against Switzerland.

Group 2: Israel vs. Czech Republic; Wednesday, 19:30 hrs. local time in Rishon Lezion

No team in group 2 has already clinched the berth for the final tournament, and all four still can book their tickets to Denmark. Israel proved their strength especially on home ground, where they almost brought Germany to their knees and beat Montenegro.

Czech star Filip Jicha and his teammates still have no away point in their account following defeats in Montenegro and Germany.

A Czech victory would open the gates to Denmark widely – if the team loses, everything is even more open in this group.

Group 2: Montenegro vs. Germany; Wednesday, 20:00 hrs. local time in Podgorica

The 'battle of Podgorica' can either grant the hosts the qualification for Denmark or a perfect base for Germany, who are eager to take revenge for the home defeat against Montenegro (27:31) in October.

If Germany win by a difference of at least five goals and win their final match against Israel, they are confirmed as group winners. If they lose, they are close to their first ever elimination from an EHF EURO final tournament.

The hosts have their fate in their hands as a victory would guarantee them a place in Denmark. The German side faces major injury problems, as Christophersen, Fäth, Dissinger and Theuerkauf are sidelined.

Group 3: Lithuania vs. France;  Wednesday, 18:45 hrs. local time in Vilnius

As France are not only qualified for the final tournament, but have also already secured the first rank in this group, coach Claude Onesta can use the final matches of this qualification to test some new players.

Lithuania have won the direct encounter against Turkey, but with only two points in their account, a berth at the EHF EURO 2014 is almost beyond reach. If they do not beat France, all chances will have vanished.

Group 3: Turkey vs. Norway; Wednesday, 19:00 hrs. local time in Yuregir/Adana

Norway showed two brave and strong performances against France, when they had the Olympic champions close to a defeat on both occasions.

The team of coach Robert Hedin are the clear favourites of finishing the group on the second rank. If Norway (four points in their account) win or draw against Turkey, they have made it to the EHF EURO 2014 - provided that Lithuania do not beat France.

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

Hungary are the clear favourites in Latvia, and a victory would grant the team of coach Lajos Mocsai already the participation in Denmark. Like Croatia, Hungary have six points in their account, while Slovakia and Latvia only won one match so far.

Group 4: Slovakia vs. Croatia; Wednesday, 20:30 hrs. local time in Bratislava

Only if Slovakia and Latvia win their both remaining matches very clearly, they have a chance to overtake Croatia and Hungary. But both Olympic semi-finalists are clearly in the favourites' role, with Croatia having won the direct encounter of the two top ranked teams on aggregate.

Against Slovakia the newly crowned VELUX EHF Champions League winners from German side HSV Hamburg, Domagoj Duvnjak, Blazenko Lackovic and Igor Vori, and their teammates are arguably the favourites.

Group 5: Ukraine vs. Sweden; Wednesday, 19:00 hrs. local time in Kiev

In group 4 Poland and Sweden top the table with six points each, Netherlands and Ukraine only have one victory each so far and if they lose their respective matches on Wednesday, they are out for the race to Denmark.

Sweden can almost secure the group victory if they win at Kiev, as the team of the coaching duo Ola Lindgren and Staffan Olsson won the direct encounter against Poland and have their final match on home ground against Netherlands.

Group 5: Netherlands vs. Poland; Wednesday, 19:30 hrs. local time in Almere

Boosted by the VELUX EHF FINAL4 participation of their national champions, KS Vive Targi Kielce, the Polish team is the clear favourite in this duel, but the Dutch squad hopes for the same surprise the country's women's national team caused last Sunday (9 June), when they eliminated Russia from race for the Women's World Championship.

It is the last chance for the hosts, who have won the direct encounter against Ukraine in the closest possible way by scoring more away goals.

Group 6: Belarus vs. Iceland; Wednesday, 18:00 hrs. local time in Minsk

While a draw for Iceland would already be enough to secure the first rank of the group, Belarus can extend their good base for a ticket to Denmark in the duel of the competition's top scorers, Siarhei Rutenka (Belarus) and Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson (Iceland).

The final result of the first leg (36:28 in favour of Iceland) looks clearer than the actual rundown of the match was, but from that moment on, Iceland played a dominant role in this group, having gained the maximum of eight points from four matches.

The Belarusians are much stronger on home ground, where they are backed by their vociferous fans.

Group 6: Romania vs. Slovenia; Wednesday, 18:00 hrs. local time in Bucuresti

Anything but a victory might already shatter the Slovenian hopes to finish second ranked. But the World Championship semi-finalists are clearly in the favourites' role, as the hosts still wait for their first point in this qualification.

If Slovenia win and Belarus lose, both would on five points before they face each other on Sunday. But even if both win, Slovenia would have the fate in their hands, as then they need to beat Belarus in their final match to clinch the berth for the EHF EURO 2014.

Group 7: Russia vs. Serbia; Wednesday, 18:00 hrs. local time in Astrakhan

They know each other best from playing for German clubs before, they have been opponents on the court, and now they are competitors on the bench for the spot for Denmark.

The Russian coaching duo, Oleg Kuleshov and Sascha Rymanov, face their new Serbian counterpart Ljubomir Vranjes, who agreed to coach Serbia for the last two qualification matches parallel to being coach of SG Flensburg-Handewitt.

After having gained only one point from the two matches against Austria, the Serbian Handball Federation dismissed Veselin Vujovic.

Now it is Vranjes’ job to secure the qualification for Denmark for the hosts of EHF EURO 2012. Before the final two rounds everything is open in the race, except for the fact that Bosnia-Herzegovina will miss the final tournament.

Russia top the table with six points, one point ahead of Serbia and Austria with five points each. Therefore a Russian victory would already mean the ticket to Denmark before their final encounter against Austria. If Serbia win, nothing is decided before the final round.

Group 7: Bosnia Herzegovina vs. Austria; Thursday, 17:00 hrs. local time in Visoko

Austria have everything in their hands: After winning the direct encounter against Serbia, the team of Icelandic born coach Patrekur Johanesson can make a huge step towards Denmark with a victory in Visoko.

Even though the hosts so far have no points in their account, they proved their strength one year ago, beating Germany by nine goals in the qualification for the World Championship. Regardless the other results, two victories in the final two matches would grant the ticket to Denmark for Austria. 


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
 
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