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01.05.2015, 13:04
First spots for Poland up for grabs
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ROUND PREVIEW: Denmark and Hungary head into Saturday’s EHF EURO 2016 Qualification matches with the hopes of clinching their berths for the final tournament
 

First spots for Poland up for grabs

Denmark and Hungary have a chance to book their tickets to the EHF EURO 2016 in Poland if they win against their respective opponents on Saturday.

Both enjoyed comfortable wins – over Belarus and Russia, respectively – in their first leg matches on Thursday and are looking strong to be amongt the first confirmed to attend the January event.

Slovakia and Finland are still fighting for their first wins following three losses from three matches, while Czech Republic hope to take two points that will put them in the best position possible ahead of the final rounds of qualification matches in June.

The EHF live ticker is available for all matches.

Group 2: Denmark vs. Belarus / Saturday 2 May, 20:15 hrs in Aarhus (live on ehfTV with English commentary)

With the opportunity to be one of the first teams to qualify for the EURO in Poland, Denmark will undoubtedly be determined to pull off a repeat of the first-leg game. Denmark won the round three qualifier 36:27.

Players such as Casper U. Mortensen, Mads Christiansen and Mikkel Hansen are in particularly good shooting form. And with the home crowd behind them, the Scandinavian side are looking the firm favourites for this match.

Denmark are well ahead of the other teams in Group 2 on the table – the biggest battle will be for second place, which at this point looks to taken by either Belarus or Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Group 3: Slovakia vs. Latvia / Saturday 2 May, 18:00 hrs in Hlohavec

Latvia controlled most of the first-leg match against Slovakia from start to finish, recording an unexpectedly big final score line (25:18) on Wednesday.

Latvia created a four-goal lead toward the end of the first half, but it was during the second half that the guests really dominated the match.

Latvia’s 2.15 metre right back Dainis Kristopans showed what a danger he is, scoring eight goals – a tally matched by his counterpart, Slovakia left back Oliver Rabek.

Saturday’s meeting should therefore be an exciting show for fans, with the high-scoring backcourt players matched against each other.

Group 5: Hungary vs. Russia / Saturday 2 May, 16:10 hrs in Veszprem (live on ehfTV with English commentary)

Two head coaches had their debut in the round three matches – and neither recorded the result they hoped for.

Croatian Zejlko Babic was one of them (Croatia lost to Norway on Wednesday), and Russia coach Dmitrii Torgovanov was the other.

The final score of 23:27 does not reflect just how dominant Hungary were in the match.

A late lapse in concentration allowed Russia to come back within touch around the 50-minute mark before Hungary pulled away again.

Hungary led from start to finish with defence that stalled any Russian counter attacks and quick play that earned them easy fast break goals.

Another two points will confirm Hungary as participants at the EHF EURO 2016 in January, so Saturday’s hosts will undoubtedly take to the court in Veszprem with increased determination.

Group 6: Czech Republic vs. Switzerland / Saturday 2 May, 17:00 hrs in Plzen

Currently sitting on three points alongside FYR Macedonia on the table, Czech Republic are still well in the race for Poland.

Czech Republic put on a solid showing against Switzerland on Wednesday despite playing without superstar Filip Jicha.

As hosts of the round four re-match between the two sides, Czech Republic are looking strong to take another two points on the weekend.

Saturday’s match will be a contest between two teams without their star players – Switzerland’s Andre Schmid was concussed toward the first half of the round three game and will not play on Saturday.

Despite not playing the second half on Wednesday, Schmid contributed seven goals to his side and finished the top scorer, showing just what a vital part of the Swiss attack he is.

The fact that Schmid will be absent for the match on Saturday is therefore a substantial blow to Switzerland.

Saturday represents Switzerland’s last chance to stay in the race for Poland. If they lose the away match against Czech Republic, their chances to qualify for the final tournament will have almost vanished completely.

Group 7: Austria vs. Finland / Saturday 2 May, 20:25 hrs in Bregenz

Austria showed on Wednesday why a handball game is not decided until the final minutes.

After allowing the Scandinavian side to control the first 45 minutes of the game, Austria kicked into gear and snatched a three-goal victory (26:23).

Finland are now in the unfavourable position of heading into a do-or-die meeting on Saturday. If they lose, their chances of making it to Poland will be close to zero.

Austria remain the favourites to take the two points from the round four game. But with matches against group opponents Germany and Spain ahead in the final rounds of qualifiers, the likelihood of Austria booking a spot for Poland is also low.


TEXT: Courtney Gahan / ts
 
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