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09.06.2015, 13:50
Top teams fight for top spot
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ROUND PREVIEW: The first qualification stage of the EHF EURO 2018 draws to a close this week, with only the best team from each group making it to the next phase
 

Top teams fight for top spot  

It is the final countdown for the first part of the Men’s EHF EURO 2018 Qualification: On Wednesday the matches of Round 5 are played (Round 6 then takes place on Saturday/Sunday) and the top teams in each of the three groups face each other in the fight for the groups’ respective top spot.

Only the group winners make it to the next qualification phase, the play-offs, in which they will play against the three lowest ranked teams from the current EHF EURO 2016 Qualification.

For all matches the EHF’s live ticker will be available.

Group A: Belgium vs. Greece; Wednesday, 20:00 hrs. local time in Hasselt

Both sides have beaten Cyprus, the third team in this group, twice, with Belgium starting the crucial duels with the better goal difference of +19 compared to Greece’s +8.

On the road to the EHF EURO 2016, when the qualification was played for the first time in the current format, Greece won their group ahead of Italy and Great Britain but eventually lost to Bosnia-Herzegovina in the play-offs.

Belgium only came second in their group back then after beating Ireland twice but also losing twice to Estonia.

Greece can be considered as slight favourites because of the bigger international experience the team possesses.  

Group B: Luxembourg vs. Estonia; Wednesday, 19:30 hrs. local time in Luxembourg

Even though Georgia currently tops Group B with four points, they will not qualify for the next stage of the qualification as on aggregate they lost their encounters against Estonia and Luxembourg.

Even if all three teams eventually end up with four points on their accounts in the final ranking, Georgia would be out.

Hence the two matches on Wednesday and Saturday decide whether the Estonians or the Luxembourgish side will make it to the next stage.

For Estonia the appearance of their top star Mait Patrail is in doubt, as he suffers from a long-term shoulder injury – a fact that Luxembourg want to exploit if possible.  

The last time both sides met each other on competitive level was in the qualification for the EHF EURO 2006 when Estonia won both matches, 29:22 and 38:34.

Group C: Italy vs. Romania; Wednesday, 20:30 hrs. local time in Conversano-Bari

After both sides have beaten Kosovo twice on the road to this double-header, Italy and Romania both hope to reach the next qualification phase – but only one will prevail.

In particular Romania aim to bounce back to find themselves among Europe’s top 28 teams again, after they lost the play-offs in the EHF EURO 2016 Qualification against Finland.

Italy have the strength to threaten Romania on home court, but are not likely two win the encounter on aggregate, with Romania playing the second leg at home.  

The most recent history also speaks for Romania who won both matches against Italy in the World Championship 2015 Qualification, 23:22 and 34:29.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
 
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