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29.04.2015, 21:59
France, Sweden and Norway top the tables
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ROUND REVIEW 2: Norway narrowly defeat Croatia, Sweden stun underperforming Slovenia, France defeat fighting FYR Macedonia and Czech Republic take two points against Switzerland in Wednesday’s EHF EURO 2016 matches
 

France, Sweden and Norway top the tables

After suffering defeat at the hands of Norway and Sweden, Croatia and Slovenia will be looking for retribution when the teams meet again on Sunday. Norway now tops the Group 1 table while Sweden is ranked first in Group 3.

In Group 6, Czech Republic recorded a solid victory over Switzerland to take their points tally to three and European champions France earn another two points against FYR Macedonia.

Group 1: Norway vs. Croatia 27:26 (17:13)

New head coach Zeljko Babic’s first big test with the Croatia national team did not go quite as planned.

Norway were quick to take the lead against the Balkan side when they took to the court on Wednesday, and it took Croatia almost 20 minutes to level the score for the first time.

A surprising number of technical errors let Croatia down as they fought to keep pace with their Scandinavian hosts, who held a four-goal lead at half-time (17:13).

Croatia were favourites heading into the match, but the absence of rising goalkeeping star Filip Ivic due to injury added an obstacle for the visitors.

It is never too late for a side like Croatia to fight back however, and playmaker Domagoj Duvnjak is expert at bringing his team back into the match.

Croatia levelled the score with a Manuel Strlek goal in the 43rd minute, and the contest really began to heat up.

With just over seven minutes left on the clock and the score at 22:22, Babic called a timeout.

The timeout did more to help Norway than Croatia however – the hosts scored a couple of quick goals to inch ahead again.

A red card for Norway’s Magnus Gullerud was not the disruption to the home side Croatia might have hoped, and Norway held on to take a one-goal victory and the two points that put them first on the table.

The second-leg match between Norway and Croatia will take place on Sunday in Varazdin.

Group 3: Sweden vs. Slovenia 28:24 (18:10)

Despite holding the top two positions on the group table, Wednesday’s match between Sweden and Slovenia was a rather one-sided one.

The hosts led from start to finish and Slovenia kept barely in touch on the scoreboard, only managing to narrow what had been a much bigger gap toward the end.

Slovenia’s perennial big scorer, Dragan Gajic, was on form as usual, but his efforts were not enough to help his side really push the Swedes.

Sweden centre back Jim Gottfridsson provided outstanding leadership in attack, adding 10 goals to his team’s tally.

Sweden were ahead by a menacing eight goals at half-time, which meant Slovenia had quite a task on their hands if they were to come back in the second period.

Though they narrowed the score line, such a comeback proved impossible, and Sweden recorded an unexpectedly comfortable win.

Slovenia remain second on the group table regardless of the loss against Sweden, and will be looking for retribution when they host Sweden in the second-leg match on Sunday.

Group 6: Switzerland vs. Czech Republic 26:30 (12:14)

Czech Republic have added two precious points to their tally, closing the gap to FYR Macedonia on the group table with a solid victory over Switzerland.

Wednesday’s match was a tense one that saw many penalty shots between the teams, a one-for-one battle for the majority of the sixty minutes and a direct red card for Czech’s Ondrej Zdrahala – but not before he scored five goals for his side.

The lead changed hands more than once during the first half, but it was the two-goal advantage Czech Republic took into the break (12:14) that proved crucial in the end.

Though Switzerland came back momentarily, the second period belonged to Czech Republic, who slowly pulled ahead to a four-goal lead by the 50th minute.

The fight continued to the final whistle, but Czech ultimately recorded the victory that belonged to them from the beginning.

Star and on-court leader Filip Jicha was unable to play due to injury, but Czech Republic proved against Switzerland they can present a real challenge without him.

Switzerland’s top scorer was centre back Andre Schmid, with seven goals.

Group 6: FYR Macedonia vs. France 25:27 (13:15)

France have added another victory to their long list with the defeat of FYR Macedonia in Skopje, taking two points that put them in a strong position to book their ticket to Poland when they face FYR Macedonia again on Sunday.

FYR Macedonia knew they would have to be better than their best to beat France – and their performance on Wednesday was not enough to win against the current world, Olympic and European champions, but they pushed the French until the final whistle.

FYR Macedonia took a while to find their shooting arms, missing several shots early on while France created a narrow lead.

When high-scoring Kiril Lazarov (eight goals) found his form however, the hosts quickly caught up and the rest of the match saw a superb display from both sides.

When France lead at half-time it is always a bad sign for their opponents, so when the visitors held a two-goal advantage at the break FYR Macedonia knew they would have to work hard to keep pace.

France always maintained an edge, entering the final ten minutes with a three-goal lead (23:26) and finishing the match two goals ahead.

France demonstrated the outstanding depth of their squad with the victory, with almost every player on the court scoring more than one goal and contributing to their trademark defence.

Michael Guigou was the victor’s highest scorer with six goals.


TEXT: Courtney Gahan / ts
 
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