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28.04.2015, 13:20
Belgium and Italy join the EHF EURO 2018 race
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PREVIEW: Belgium and Italy will play their first EHF EURO 2018 qualification matches on Wednesday
 

Belgium and Italy join the EHF EURO 2018 race

Four teams will be ready to fight hard when they take to the court on Wednesday.

Both Cyprus and Kosovo lost their two first-leg EHF EURO 2018 Qualification Phase 1 matches toward the end of last year, so will need to make up for those losses by taking some points this week if they hope to reach the next stage of qualification to which only the respective group winners advance.

Belgium and Italy on the other hand, have not played any qualification matches yet and will likely be ready to come out of the blocks with a bang.

The EHF live ticker is available for both matches.

Group A: Cyprus vs. Belgium / Wednesday 29 April, 19:30 hrs in Nicosia

Though they put up a good fight, Cyprus were overcome by Greece (25:27 / 17:23) on both occasions when the teams met in October and November 2014 .

The first game was their best, when, after trailing for the first 50 minutes, Cyprus came back to within just one goal.

In the end Greece took both wins, but Belgium cannot afford to underestimate their determined hosts.

Belgium have a slightly stronger qualification history than Cyprus, having drawn with group opponents Greece in the qualification stage of the World Championship 2015, which would make it seem as though they have a slight edge heading into the match.

The Belgians will need to watch out for Cyprus’ top scorer from both first-leg matches, Julios Argyrou, who will undoubtedly be ready to lead his team in attack again.

Group C: Kosovo vs. Italy / Wednesday, 19:30 hrs in Prishtina

Though they lost both first-leg qualification matches to Romania decisively (24:36 / 16:30), Kosovo cannot be too disappointed by their performance.

The EHF EURO 2018 qualification games represent the country’s first ever participation in an international tournament, as they were only granted full membership by the EHF Congress in September 2014.

Despite their losses against Romania, there was an excited atmosphere in Prishtina when Kosovo hosted Romania last year – and there likely will be an enthusiastic home crowd ready to support their team when they welcome Italy on Wednesday.

However, it seems certain that Italy will be a difficult opponent for the less-experienced Kosovo side.

Kosovo did manage to keep pace with Romania into the second halves of their first-leg matches, only letting their rivals pull away near the end of the games.

If they can master keeping their concentration for the full sixty minutes, fans in Prishtina can look forward to an exciting match.


TEXT: Courtney Gahan / ts
 
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