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26.03.2014, 12:23
Crunch time for Serbia’s World Championship silver medallists
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ROUND PREVIEW: Serbia vs. Sweden is the top match among Thursday’s four Women’s EHF EURO 2014 qualifiers
 

Crunch time for Serbia’s World Championship silver medallists

Round 3 of the qualification for the Women's EHF EURO 2014 in Croatia and Hungary concludes with four matches on Thursday.

While Austria and Slovenia aim for the first of envisioned two victories in their double-headers against Lithuania and Slovenia respectively, World Championship runners-up, Serbia, are already under pressure in their top match against Sweden.

Group 1: Lithuania vs. Austria; Thursday, 18:30 hrs. local time in Panevezys 
Re-match: Saturday, 20:25 hrs. local time in Bregenz

"Four points are a must," is the clear motto of Austrian coach Herbert Müller ahead of his team’s double-header against Lithuania, who lost their two opening matches in this qualification campaign.

After missing out on the World Championship 2013, the young Austrian team are currently in a good position in Group 1, as they beat Ukraine 34:28 and can therefore cope the defeat they conceded at Denmark.

However, Müller remains careful: "Lithuania are the strongest team we could get from pot 4, so we have to be aware."

Group 4: Italy vs. Turkey; Thursday, 20:00 hrs. local time in Chieti
Re-match: Saturday, 17:00 hrs. local time in Cankaya

Only the aggregate winners of these two duels - and only if they take the maximum of four points - might have a slim chance to remain in the race for the EHF EURO.

Spain and Netherlands are the favourites in this group and are already ahead by four points, as both Italy and Turkey lost their first two qualification matches.

Group 5: Serbia vs. Sweden; Thursday, 20:00 hrs. local time in Kragujevac
Re-match: Sunday, 18:15 hrs. local time in Kristianstad

They first lost at Slovenia in the Women’s EHF EURO 2014 qualification, but two month later they won the silver at the World championship 2013 – the Serbian women’s national team is arguably on a roller coaster these days.

But the fact they reached the World Championship Final on home court and have the 2013 World Handball Player, Andrea Lekic, in their ranks, can be a boost to Serbia’s morale ahead of their crucial matches against Sweden.

The team from Scandinavia tops Group 5 with a clean record of four points, while Serbia feel the Slovenia’s breath in their necks, as both teams are level on two points.

Due to the significance of this double-header, Serbian coach Sasa Boskovic nominated the experienced defence specialist Jelena Eric, who had originally retired from international handball.

Group 5: Switzerland vs. Slovenia; Thursday, 20:00 hrs. local time in Stäfa
Re-match: Sunday, 17:30 hrs. local time in Ljubljana

This is double-header is something like ‘welcome, home’-affair for Marta Bon. The 52-year-old had been in charge of the Swiss team before she took over Slovenia.

Now Bon will face her successor, Jesper Holmris, who had previously been the coach of the British women’s team at the 2012 Olympic Games.

While Switzerland are at the bottom of the ranking in Group 5 with zero points, Slovenia took a sensational win over Serbia – and Bon hopes for more now: "We need to win both games, but we should not underestimate Switzerland."

The most experienced player in her squad is goalkeeper Sergeja Stefanisin.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
 
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