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29.10.2014, 11:10
For six teams the road to the EHF EURO 2018 starts this week
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ROUND PREVIEW: The first qualifiers for the second next Men’s EHF EURO event will be played on Wednesday and Thursday in Greece, Estonia and Romania
 

For six teams the road to the EHF EURO 2018 starts this week

While 28 nations are heading for the start of the Men’s EHF EURO 2016 Qualification, nine other nations – Greece, Cyprus, Belgium, Luxembourg, Estonia, Georgia, Romania, Kosovo and Italy – are already vying to stay in the race for the Men's EHF EURO 2018.

And for six of them the road to the final tournament in Croatia starts on Wednesday or Thursday with qualification matches being played in Greece, Estonia and Romania.

Only the winners of the three groups in this phase stay in the race for the Men's EHF EURO 2018.

In April 2016 these three group winners will face the three lowest ranked teams overall of the EHF EURO 2016 Qualification. Three play-off double-headers will then decide which three teams proceed to Phase 2 of the EHF EURO 2018 Qualification.

After the EHF Congress in Dublin granted full membership to the Kosovo Handball Federation, Kosovo's match against Romania on Wednesday will be the first official match of their men's senior national team.

While being involved in club competitions before, Kosovo since January 2014 had been allowed to conduct friendly national team matches, and an under-18 women's team took part in the European Open in Sweden this summer.

Group A: Greece vs. Cyprus / Thursday, 19:30 hrs. in Bozaitika Patras

Greece and Cyprus already faced each other in the European qualification for the World Championship 2013 when Greece won both matches (31:13 / 30:27).

The hosts are the clear favourites as they can count on experienced players plying their trade in European top leagues, in particular in the German Bundesliga.

In the qualification for the EHF EURO 2016 Greece had reached the intermediate play-offs but missed the qualification's second phase after two clear defeats against Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The third team in Group A is Belgium.

Group B: Estonia vs. Georgia / Wednesday, 20:00 hrs. in Tallin

While Estonia have been participating at every qualification phase in recent years and even almost made it to the EHF EURO 2012 in Serbia, Georgia are more like newcomers.

In 2010 they participated in the first qualification stage for the EHF EURO 2012, but they joined the race neither for the EHF EURO 2014 nor for the 2016 event.

This seems to put Estonia in the driving seat for the upcoming qualifier, even more so as they can count on the prowess of their top star Mait Patrail who plays for Hannover-Burgdorf in the German Bundesliga.

The third participant in this group is Luxembourg.

Group C: Romania vs. Kosovo / Wednesday, 18:30 hrs. local time in Bucharest

After Romania to the surprise of many lost to Finland in the intermediate play-offs of the EHF EURO 2016 Qualification in April this year, head coach Eliodor Voica resigned.

And even his successor, Christian Gaudin, only stayed for some months before he was contracted by 2013 VELUX EHF Champions League winners HSV Hamburg.

After some unsuccessful negotiations with foreign coaches, Aihan Omer, who led the team already twice, is back to steer Romania to the EHF EURO 2018.

In what is his first competitive test, Romania are the clear favourites against debutants Kosovo, who play their first international after the federation was granted full membership at the EHF Congress in September.

The group’s third team is Italy.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
 
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