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26.03.2014, 22:53
Norway book their ticket to the EHF EURO
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ROUND REVIEW 2: Olympic champions keep clear record by beating Belarus, while Netherlands win the top duel against Spain
 

Norway book their ticket to the EHF EURO

Joining the Women’s EHF EURO hosts, Hungary and Croatia, who are directly qualified, Norway on Wednesday became the first to make it through the hardship of the qualification to the final tournament as the five-time champions beat Belarus.

In three other matches Netherlands and France opened the gate to the final tournament after winning the respective top duels in their groups, while Slovakia had to fight hard to win at Finland.

Group 2: Finland vs. Slovakia 25:27 (14:12)

In one of their best performances on international level, Finland were close to a major surprise in the match's final stages, when Slovakia stumbled, but did not fall.

In the 56th minute the deal seemed to be sealed for the Slovaks as they led leading 27:22, but the hosts never gave-up and reduced the gap to only two goals in the dying minutes of an eventually thrilling game.

Finland played on eye level most of the time despite the fact that Slovakia enjoyed in lead.

Thanks to their strongest period right before the break, the hosts turned a three-goal deficit into a 14:12 half-time lead and managed to stay ahead until 17:16.

But then the bigger international experience and the higher number of alternatives from the bench secured Slovakia another clear lead, before the Finnish women caught up once again.

Best scorers were Alexandra Roos (Finland) and Katarina Dubajova (Slovakia) with seven goals each.

Finland still wait for their first point in this qualification, Slovakia are on four before the re-match on home court.

Group 2: Iceland vs. France 21:27 (11:15)

A well-balanced team performance and a strong defence were the keys for France's third success, that sees them needing only one more point, which they are likely to secure in the re-match on the weekend, to clinch their EHF EURO berth.

Similar to their unlucky 18:19 defeat at Slovakia at the beginning of the qualification, Iceland played on eye level for a long time against the World Championship 2011 silver medallists even though the team of coach Agust Johannsson had to replace five key players due to injuries.

While France now have the maximum of six points on their account, Iceland (2 points) will have to fight hard, in particular in their duel with Slovakia in June, to qualify for the final tournament.

Iceland never enjoyed a lead in the entire 60 minutes, while France tried to reach an early decision after being ahead 9:4 and 12:6. But Iceland always stroke back and kept the gap to four goals at the break.

As the French defence stood rock-solid, Iceland needed much more power to score, and eventually ran out of time.

They had lowered the margin to 21:24 and their hopes were high seven minutes before the end – before these hopes were immediately shattered by a French double-strike that put France ahead 26:21.

Best French scorers were Paule Beaudoin and Siramba Dembele with five goals each.

Group 4: Netherlands vs. Spain 27:22 (17:12)

Netherlands took revenge for the bitter defeat against Spain in the 2012 Olympic Games Qualification in style and are now close to qualification for the EHF EURO.

If the Dutch team (6 points after three wins) is successful in the re-match on Sunday, the ticket to Hungary and Croatia will be booked.

Even eight goals of the brilliant Alexandrina Barbosa were not enough to avoid the Spanish defeat, as the Dutch team including top scorer Lois Abbingh (seven goals) had full control most of the time in this top duel of two previously unbeaten teams.

The match was virtually decided already at the break, as the Dutch defence had allowed only 12 goals, while the powerful attack was unstoppable for the Spain's defence.

Netherlands were away 6:2, before Spain improved and even turned the match around to 9:7 in their favour.

At 12:12 the result was levelled the last time as the Dutch accelerated and scored a 5:0 series until half-time.

Spain (remaining on 4 points) tried everything to come back again and were slightly superior in the first 15 minutes of the second half, but could not reduce the gap to less than two goals.

When Netherlands had returned to their powerful and fast style of playing, the deal was sealed at the latest at 24:19 five minutes before the end.

Group 6: Norway vs. Belarus 33:29 (16:13)

Norway are the first team to clinch the berth for the EHF EURO 2014. Thanks to their third straight win, the reigning Olympic and five time EHF EURO champions booked their ticket on Wednesday night in Stavanger.

After their two opening victories against Romania even a draw would have been enough to proceed to the final tournament – and despite the absence of key players like Anja Edin-Hammerseng and Isabel Blanco, Norway had no problems in taking both points, mainly thanks to the nine goals from ten attempts by left wing Camilla Herrem.

But Belarus were no easy opponents as they withstood the pressure stronger than expected, while they were led by eight-time scorer Hanna Stsiapanava.

The hosts had the better start, leading 4:1 and 8:3 mainly because of their strong defence. But when Belarus changed their style of attacking their scorers became more efficient, while Norway missed several chances.

At 12:12 the team of coach Tomaz Cater was close to turn the match around, but the Belarusian equaliser was something like a wake-up call for the Norwegians, who scored four straight goals.

After the break it took some time before the Olympic champions had full control of the match again, but when they enjoyed their first six-goal advantage at 23:17 the EHF EURO 2014 ticket was in their hands.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
 
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