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30.10.2014, 19:53
Big wins for Sweden and Croatia in first round of qualifiers
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ROUND REVIEW 2016 - 1: Croatia and Sweden recorded comfortable wins in their first match of the EHF EURO 2016 Qualification on Thursday
 

Big wins for Sweden and Croatia in first round of qualifiers

It was a case of facing relatively unknown opponents in the Men’s EHF EURO 2016 Qualification Phase matches on Thursday.

The meetings between Croatia and the Netherlands, Sweden and Latvia, saw the teams play against each other for the first time on competitive level.

Croatia and Sweden showed why they were the favourites ahead of their respective matches, pulling off comfortable victories on their home courts, despite the fact that Croatia were missing star Domagoj Duvnjak.

Group 1: Croatia vs. Netherlands 35:24 (17:10)

Netherlands coach Joop Fiege will have to wait a little longer to see whether his team has what it takes to secure second place in Group 1 – a target the team has firmly in their sight.

After a convincing win by Croatia in Koprivnica, the home side have taken their first two points of the tournament, leaving the Dutch at the bottom of the group with Turkey.

Despite the absence of playmaker Duvnjak (due to eye problems), Croatia took the lead early in the match and did not let it go.

The Netherlands put up strong resistance, but simply could not match the unfaltering Croatian attack – even without the home side’s on-court leader.

By half-time, the hosts had a seven-goal advantage, which they steadily increased in the second period to lead by nine goals (26:17) in the 45th minute.

Though Croatia held a decisive lead throughout the match, the difference in attack and shooting efficiency between the teams was far greater than the score showed.

In this department, Croatia (60 per cent) were vastly superior to their opponent (37 per cent).

In the end, Croatia recorded a victory that was never really in danger, joining Norway at the top of the group table.

The top scorers of the match were star right wing Ivan Cupic and young left back Ivan Sliskovic for Croatia, and 24-year-old right back Bobby Schagen for the Netherlands, all with six goals.

Both teams will play their second match of the qualification phase on Sunday, when Croatia will meet Turkey and the Netherlands will play Norway.

Group 3: Sweden vs. Latvia 33:23 (18:8)

Latvia have yet to qualify for an international event – and their dream is one step further away following a decisive loss against a strong Swedish home side on Thursday.

It did not take long for the hosts to assert their dominance over the less experienced Latvian squad.

After a slow start, Sweden scored two goals in succession around the tenth minute and only increased the score line from there.

Midway through the first half, the hosts were leading by five goals (9:4) and Latvia seemed unable to match the fast counter attacks and strong shooting efficiency brought by Sweden.

Latvia picked up their game toward the end of the first half, dramatically improving their shot percentages, but their high number of technical faults in comparison with Sweden’s zero meant the away side were down 10 goals by half-time.

Neither team wasted any time in the second half – Sweden scored in the first minute, followed soon after by a goal from Latvia’s top scorer of the match, right back Dainis Kristopans.

The first ten minutes of the half were some of the most exciting of the match, with Sweden scoring six goals and Latvia five (24:13).

Latvia managed to narrow Sweden’s lead during the second period, coming within seven goals of their hosts (26:19) around the 50th minute.

But before long, Sweden had pulled away again to finish the match with a decisive ten-goal lead.

Sweden’s top scorers were wings Fredrik Raahauge Petersen and Niclas Ekberg, with six goals each. Latvia’s top scorer, Dainis Kristopans, finished with eight goals.

Both teams will take to the court again on Saturday, when Sweden will play their second qualification phase match against Slovakia and Latvia will host Slovenia.


TEXT: Courtney Gahan / ts
 
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