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02.05.2015, 11:00
Crunch time in all seven qualification groups
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ROUND PREVIEW: Norway, Sweden, France and Germany can book their EHF EURO 2016 tickets already on Sunday
 

Crunch time in all seven qualification groups

Nine matches are being played in the fourth round of the EHF EURO 2016 Qualification on Sunday, and four teams – Norway, Sweden, France and Germany – have the chance to clinch their berth at Poland 2016 if they win their respective games.

On the other hand, teams like Slovenia, Croatia, Spain and Serbia are under a certain pressure to deliver in their home matches.

The qualification for the EHF EURO 2016 comes to an end with two more rounds in June. The final tournament draw takes place on 19 June 2015 in Krakow.

The EHF live ticker is available for all matches.

Group 1: Netherlands vs. Turkey / Sunday 3 May, 14:00 hrs in Almere – First leg: 30:23

After having won the away game on Wednesday, the Dutch team is the clear favourite against the Turkish side on home court.

If they win and Norway beat Croatia, Netherlands will be equal in points with the Balkan side – but they remain nevertheless the clear underdogs in the race for the second position in this group.

Group 1: Croatia vs. Norway / Sunday 3 May, 17:15 hrs. in Varazdin – First leg: 26:27

The home debut of new Croatia coach Zeljko Babic will prove if the sensational defeat at Norway on Wednesday was a single failure or if the Scandinavian side is truly better.

“We know what we have to improve,” says Babic ahead of the match.

On the other end of the court, Norway have the chance to book their ticket to Poland if they win again.

“We are extremely happy about the important win against Croatia, as now the gate to Poland is open for us. We have nothing to lose in Croatia,” said Norway coach Christian Berge

 

Group 2: Lithuania vs. Bosnia Herzegovina / Sunday 3 May, 17:00 hrs. in Kaunas – First leg: 23:26

It was a hard piece of work, but eventually Bosnia-Herzegovina took the points in the first leg to stay in the race for their first EHF EURO participation.

Lithuania, who are still on zero points, are willing to spring a surprise like their neighbours Latvia did against Slovakia on Wednesday.

But the bigger international experience and physical advantage see Bosnia-Herzegovina in a better position for Sunday's match.

Group 3: Slovenia vs. Sweden / Sunday, 17:30 hrs. in Celje – First leg: 24:28

Can Sweden book their EHF EURO 2016 ticket already in the 'lion’s den' of Celje with their fourth win in their fourth match?

After their strong performance on home court on Wednesday another victory would not be that much of a sensation.

But Slovenia know how to turn matches against top teams around, as they proved in the World Championship 2015 Play-offs when they eliminated Hungary.

Group 4: Serbia vs. Iceland / Sunday 3 May, 19:00 hrs in Nis – First leg: 22:38 (live on ehfTV with English commentary)

Dejan Peric was much more needed as a psychologist than as a coach after the 16-goal defeat on Wednesday against – the clearest a Serbian team conceded in any qualification.

Iceland overran the EHF EURO 2012 silver medallists, as they relied on their best weapon, wing player Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson.

“It will be hard to recover from a defeat like this, but we have to,” said Peric aftert the game.

Another defeat against Iceland (both teams are currently on 4 points) puts the qualification for Poland 2016 in doubt, while Iceland would make their 'Balkan curse' vanish into thin air, after they had lost recent matches against Bosnia-Herzegovina (in the World Championship Play-offs) and Montenegro (in the EHF EURO Qualification).

Montenegro vs. Israel / Sunday 3 May, 20:00 hrs. in Bar – First leg: 22:19

If Serbia vs Iceland ends in draw and Montenegro beat Israel, the hosts of the game would top the group table – but Israel was a tough nut to crack on Thursday.

Two years ago in EHF EURO 2014 Qualification Israel lost at Podgorica by just one goal (28:29), but in 2015 the chances seem to be limited as some key players are injured.

Group 5: Portugal vs. Ukraine / Sunday, 16:05 hrs. in Vila Nova de Gaia – First leg: 32:26

Portugal can increase their chances for finishing third in Group 5 in their home matches against Ukraine, who have lost some key players, in particular in their back court axis, and still wait for their first point in this qualification.

The first leg was a relatively easy win for Portugal and therefore the home game should not be that different.

Group 6: France vs. Fyr Macedonia / Sunday 3 May, 17:05 hrs. local time in Toulouse – First leg: 27:25

In the home town of head coach Claude Onesta and team captain Jerome Fernandez the world, EHF EURO and Olympic champions France are likely to book the ticket for Poland.

Even though the first leg in Skopje was a close encounter, France are the clear favourites in Toulouse.

“We want to finish this qualification with a clear record,” top star Nikola Karabatic said ahead of the match.

Group 7: Spain vs. Germany / Sunday 3 May, 17:00 hrs. in Leon - First leg: 28:29 (live on ehfTV with English commentary)

After a thrilling and exciting win on home court, the Germans travel to Leon full of confidence, knowing that they can clinch their berth for Poland 2016 with another victory.

“Germany were better in the first leg, but we are supposed to be better on home court,” said Spanish coach Manuel Cadenas.

Even another loss should not threaten the 2013 world champions' qualification as their remaining games are against Finland and Austria, but it would certainly put Spain under pressure.

Photos: EHF, Sascha Klahn


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
 
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