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03.05.2015, 21:00
Defending champions France book the ticket to Poland 2016
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ROUND REVIEW: Spain and Croatia bounce back to beat Germany and Norway on home court in the EHF EURO 2016 Qualification, while two seconds were missing for Sweden to qualify for the final tournament
 

Defending champions France book the ticket to Poland 2016

After their fourth win in their fourth match, defending EHF EURO champions France have clinched the berth for the 2016 event in Poland as the third team, after Denmark and Hungary already qualified on on Saturday.

On Sunday the French side took a convincing 35:24 win against FYR Macedonia. Sweden almost followed France, but they were shocked by a last second equaliser against Slovenia.

In the other qualifiers Lithuania beat Bosnia-Herzegovina, while Croatia and Spain bounced back after their losses this week to win their home games against Norway and Germany respectively.

Group 1: Croatia vs. Norway 31:25 (16:17)

Croatia were warned after they had lost the first leg 26:27 against Croatia on Wednesday, but they did not step into the Norwegian trap a second time.

Match winner for Croatia was Domagoj Duvnjak, who scored seven times from seven attempts.

Despite an intermediate 15:11 lead, Croatia at the end of the first half lost their confidence in attack, as Norway reduced the gap and eventually took a 17:16 lead into the locker rooms.

But Croatian coach Zeljko Babic found the right words at half-time, as his team came back, being much more efficient in attack and more aggressive in defence.

Norway were close until the score stood at 20:18 in favour of the hosts, but then Croatia forged ahead to 27:20 and never let go of their lead again.

Both sides have six points on their account now, but Croatia have won the direct encounter courtesy of the better goal difference in aggregate.

Group 2: Lithuania vs. Bosnia Herzegovina 19:15 (10:7)

The strong Lithuanian performance in their 23:26 defeat against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Thursday was no 'one-hit wonder' – and the final result at Kaunas was a clear setback for the Bosnian chances to make it to their first EHF EURO.

After Denmark already booked their ticket to Poland 2016 on Saturday, now the fight for the second spot is on between Belarus and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The away team had the better start and lead 4:1, but then Lithuania turned the tide, scoring a 7:1 series until the 22nd minute.

The Bosnian players lost their rhythm in attack, and Nikola Prce was the only one who managed to get through the Lithuanian defence – he scored five goals overall.

In the second half Lithuania were in danger only once, when the Bosnia-Herzegovina reduced the gap to just one goal (12:13), but it took until the 58th minute until the deal was fully sealed, when Gerdas Baberskas scored for Lithuania for 18:14.

Best scorers for the winning team were Strazdas and Pleta with four goals each.

Group 3: Slovenia vs. Sweden 28:28 (13:16)

The 13th goal of Dragan Gajic prevented Slovenia from another defeat against Sweden after their 24:28 loss against the same team on Wednesday.

And two seconds were missing for Sweden to book their EHF EURO 2016 ticket as Gajic converted a penalty to grant his team a lucky draw.

The home team led only once throughout the entire 60 minutes, but showed moral and fighting spirit in the final stages of the game.

Sweden shocked the team of coach Boris Denic with a 4:0 start, which was, however, answered by four straight Slovenian goals.

But the home side missed too many chances and was not able to stop the Swedish counter attack experts like top scorer Niklas Ekberg (5 goals).

Following their three-goal advantage at the break, the Scandinavians missed to seal the deal in their favoru in the middle of the second half, when they were ahead 20:15.

Slovenia rose again, equalised for the first time at 23:23 and even took the lead at 24:23. Sweden bounced back, led 28:27, but then Gajic's successful penalty with two seconds left on the clock gave Slovenia one point.

Group 5: Portugal vs. Ukraine 34:24 (19:12)

Like the first leg on Thursday which ended 32:36 for Portugal, Sunday’s game was already decided at the break.

Portugal benefitted from their better bench and were clearly dominant throughout the entire 60 minutes.

Ukraine were close to their opponents only in the first 15 minutes, but as the first half concluded Portugal easily extended the score from 9:7 to 19:12 after 30 minutes.

And they kept their rhythm even after the break, when the deal had already been sealed.

Best scorers were Fabio Antunes (Portugal/10 goals) and Roman Chychykalo (Ukraine/8 goals).

While Ukraine remain on zero points after their third defeat, Portugal have passed Russia in the group table with four points on their account and rank second behind Hungary, who already booked their EHF EURO ticket on Saturday.

Group 6: France vs. FYR Macedonia 35:24 (17:10)

Four matches, four victories – and defending champions France had bagged the qualification for the EHF EURO 2016.

Contrary to the first encounter in Skopje on Wednesday (27:25), the Macedonians were without a chance in Toulouse.

The French side nearly missed no shot in the first half to virtually decide the one-sided encounter already at the half-time buzzer.

The EHF EURO, World and Olympic champions fired on all cylinders, thus destroying the Macedonian hopes for a potential surprise early and with verve.

There were very small shimmers of hope for FYR Macedonia early in the second half, but France took full control again in the 45th minute and extended the gap to ten goals for the first time at 30:20 after scoring an incredible seven consecutive goals.

Best scorers were Nikola Karabatic (France/6) and his FC Barcelona teammate Kiril Lazarov (FYR Macedonia/9).

After having lost both encounters against France, FYR Macedonia are third ranked in the group, two points behind Czech Republic, but they still play the Czech team at home.

Group 7: Spain vs. Germany 26:20 (11:8)

The arena in Leon was a 'lion’s den', and the Spaniards knew exactly what was needed to tame their opponents: After the 2013 world champions had lost the first encounter on Wednesday 28:29, they stroke back on home court in what was an intense defence battle.

The Spanish defence stood like a wall, and the German attackers missed too many chances in order to be successful – so both sides share the top position in the group with ix points each and both only need two more points to clinch their berth at the EHF EURO 2014.

Germany led 7:5 early in the first half, but the Spain turned the match around completely.

Thanks to the saves of goalkeeper Arpad Sterbik and their rock-solid defence, they dominated Germany at will.

A 6:3 saw them taking a 11:8 lead into the half-time break and as the Germans still showed a poor scoring efficiency, the gap was extended to six goals at 20:14 quite easily.

However, Germany did not surrender, but tried everything to take control again: At 22:19 they had the momentum on their side, but then again failed twice against Sterbik.

As in the first leg Valero Rivera jun. was the top scorer for Spain, this time with six goals, while Uwe Gensheimer netted five times for Germany.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
 
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