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30.03.2014, 22:25
Tensions rise in Group 5 and Montenegro qualifies for EHF EURO
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ROUND REVIEW: A tense round of matches took place on Sunday as the qualifications for the Women’s EHF EURO 2014 continued, with Norway, Montenegro and Poland walking away with victories, and an epic shooting battle between Sweden and Serbia ending in a draw once again
 

Tensions rise in Group 5 and Montenegro qualifies for EHF EURO

Sunday’s bout of matches in Round 4 of qualification for the Women's EHF EURO 2014 was a battle between goalkeepers, strong defence, big shooters and, above all, nerves. The fate of several teams remains unknown as Rounds 3 and 4 draw to a close.

Defending champions Montenegro beat Czech Republic (25:22) for the second time in five days and by taking another two points qualified for the final tournament in the process, whilst Poland won against Portugal 29:21, though both teams remain at the bottom of Group 3.

Sweden and Serbia faced off in what was another thrilling match, ending in a draw at 18:18; Slovenia defeated Switzerland again with a score of 30:29, and Norway beat their hosts, Belarus, with a decisive score of 32:24.

Group 3: Poland vs. Portugal 29:21 (14:8)
First leg: 24:17

Though Portugal’s coach: Joao Florencio, realises qualifying for the final tournament in Hungary and Croatia may not be realistic, he can be proud of his team’s performance against Poland on Sunday.

The away team lost by almost the same margin they did in the first leg matches of this round of the qualification, but they made the Polish side uncomfortable as they stayed one goal for one until late in the first half, when the proficiency of Poland showed and they pulled ahead to lead the match 14:8 at half-time.

Portugal started strong in the second half, bringing the score line back to just two goals behind and keeping with the Poland team until the last ten minutes of the half, when the Poles pulled away again to achieve the final score of 29:21.

Poland and Portugal will both be hoping to redeem themselves in Rounds 5 and 6 of the qualification phase after two losses each in Rounds 1 and 2.

Group 3: Montenegro vs. Czech Republic 25:22 (12:11)
First leg: 24:23

Sunday’s match between Montenegro and the Czech Republic was a close battle for the coveted two points, with the world-class talent of the Montenegrin side proving the decider in a thrilling 25:22 game won by the EHF EURO 2012 champions.

Montenegro took an early lead in the first half, but was quickly caught by the away team, eventually finishing the first half up by just one goal.

Czech Republic started the second half strong, achieving a two-goal lead by the 33rd minute. It took several minutes for the Montenegrins to level the score, but they did so and by the 50th minute, the experience of players such as Katarina Bulatovic and Milena Knezevic had helped the home side pull ahead by three – the same margin by which they would win the match at 25:22.

Following Sunday’s match, Montenegro became the first of Group 3 to qualify for the Women’s EHF EURO 2014 in Hungary and Croatia in December.

Group 5: Sweden vs. Serbia 18:18 (9:10)
First leg: 25:25

In a game marked by exceptional defence and goalkeeping, Sunday’s match between Sweden and Serbia ended in a draw once again.

The final score of 18:18 demonstrates just how evenly matched these two teams are – the game was a contest between powerful, long-range shooters; solid goalkeeping; and strong, patient defence.

Fans were kept on the edge of their seats throughout the match, with Serbia finishing the first half ahead by one, then the teams going one-for-one throughout the second half.

Following a messy few minutes, around the 50th minute, both teams stepped up in defence and no goals were scored for four minutes. The drought was broken in spectacular fashion by the Swedes, bringing the score to 18:17 in favour of the home team.

It was World Player of the Year 2013, Andrea Lekic, who scored a superb goal in the 56th minute that decided the final score.

Group 5: Slovenia vs. Switzerland 30:29 (15:16)
First leg: 24:22

It was a tense match when Slovenia hosted Switzerland for the second leg of Rounds 3 and 4 of qualifications on Sunday. Switzerland began the match strongly, but were soon joined by the Slovenians in what continued as a one-for-one game for almost the entire 60 minutes.

The match was a battle between the more experienced players of each team, with strong performances by players such as Switzerland’s Karin Weigelt, Nicole Dinkel and Lisa Frey, as well as by Slovenia’s Ana Gros, Tamara Mavsar and Maja Son.

The second half proved particularly tense, when Switzerland looked to be running away with the lead early on. Slovenia played patiently to draw even in the 45th minute, though the Swiss took the lead to three again by the 50th.

Slovenia persisted and levelled the score at 29:29 in the 57th minute, taking the lead and scoring the final goal of the match with a penalty in the 58th minute.  

Group 6: Belarus vs. Norway 24:32 (12:16)
First leg: 29:33

Norway claimed a second victory against Belarus in Sunday’s Round 4 qualification match of the Women’s EHF EURO 2014.

The final score of Sunday’s match, 32:24, more accurately reflected the experience and ability of the Norway team than Wednesday’s meeting – especially playing in front of a Belarusian crowd.

Sunday’s game was not of particular significance for the Norwegians, who had already sealed their qualification with Wednesday’s victory over the same opponents.

Despite the loss, Belarus will be happy with their performance against one of the powerhouses of international women’s handball, with this round being their first of the tournament as well as their first international matches for 16 months; the team has never qualified for an international tournament and plays the qualification matches with the hope of gaining experience and eventually doing so.

Norway now sits comfortably atop the table of Group 6 with eight points.

Rounds 5 and 6 will decide the fate for the other two teams in Group 6: Romania and Belarus, with whoever wins the matches when these two teams face each other qualifying for the final tournament to be hosted by Hungary and Croatia in December.

 


TEXT: Courtney Gahan / ts
 
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