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11.06.2015, 00:10
Croatia, Norway, Spain and Germany book the tickets to Poland
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ROUND REVIEW 3: Norway benefit from Croatian, Germany from Spanish win in the EHF EURO 2016 Qualification, while Montenegro let an early qualification for the EHF EURO slip from their hands
 

Croatia, Norway, Spain and Germany book the tickets to Poland

Despite some unexpected strong resistance Croatia booked their EHF EURO 2016 ticket on Wednesday night - a win that also confirmed the final tournament participation for Norway.

The same happened in Group 7 when the Spanish win against Austria eventually removed any doubts for Germany.

In Group 4 nothing is decided yet following the 23:23 draw between Serbia and Montenegro.

In Group 5 Portugal gave a clear lead from their hands and were defeated by Hungary,

Group 1: Turkey vs. Norway 22:26 (10:12)

Fifth match, fourth win – and the ticket to Poland 2016: After Norway had failed to qualify for the World Championship 2015, they are back among the top teams. But the match against Turkey was much closer than expected, after Norway had won 36:27 at home ground in the first leg.

The hosts showed moral and character, as the were led by their top scorers Volkan Caliscan (8 goals) and Ramazan Döne (6).

For 56 minutes and until the score of 22:25, the Turkish side was an opponent that played at the same level, even though Norway were constantly in the lead.

By scoring eight times, Thomas Kristensen became Norway's top scorer.

At the beginning the Scandinavians had problems finding the gaps in the Turkish defence, and even a 17:13 lead right after the break did not provide them with sufficient confidence as Turkey reduced the gap to 16:17.

But then a timeout of coach Christian Berge eventually did the trick, as Norway powered away to 23:18 and did not allow this lead to slip from their hands again.

Group 1: Netherlands vs. Croatia 24: 27 (12:14)

Croatia were in troubles but did not stumble on their way to Poland 2016: Thanks to their wing players Zlatko Horvat (7 goals) and Manuel Strlek (6) the team of head coach Zeljko Babic clinched their berth for the EHF EURO 2016 – but they had more problems than they probably would have liked against Netherlands.

The Dutch team produced one of their best performances and were close to a major sensation, but eventually the international experience and the individual skills of the Croatian players decided the match.

Following an equal start, Croatia looked as if they were on track when they led 14:8. But then they lost their rhythm, focus and concentration and allowed the hosts to score a 4:0 series for the half-time score of 12:14.

In the 41st minute Netherlands had the chance to equalise at 19:19 - but failed.

Eleven minutes before the end, at 21:23, nothing was decided and Croatia were lucky that the Dutch side missed another two chances.

Then a double strike of Horvat sealed the deal for Babic's team. Best scorer for Netherlands, who remain on four points in Group 1, was Nicky Verjans with six goals.

Group 4: Montenegro vs. Serbia 23:23 (11:14)

Vasko Sevaljevic could have become the hero for Montenegro – but as his last shot of the game did not find the back of the net in the neighbours' duel against Serbia, everything is still open in this thrilling Qualification Group 4.

If Sevaljevic had scored on the buzzer, his side would have booked the ticket to Poland already and would have put the Serbs under enormous pressure.

Thanks to their second consecutive draw following the 25:25 against Iceland in May, Serbia now still have their fate in their hands by having six points on their account – despite the fact they rank behind Iceland and Montenegro, who have seven points each.

The two top sides face each other on Sunday in Reykjavik. If Montenegro and Iceland tie and Serbia beat Israel, all would be on eight points which would mean the qualification for the entire trio, as then the best third ranked team would also come from this group.

Montenegro were trailing 6:10 after 14 minutes and still by three goals, 11:14, when the teams went into the half-time break.

But things changed when Milos Vujovic equalised at 16:16, and PSG wing Fehrudin Melic scored for the first Montenegrin lead one minute later.

From that moment on until the 57th minute, the rundown was always the same: Montenegro took the lead, Serbia equalised.

Nobody expected that the 23:23, scored by Nemanja Zelenovic, would already be the match's final goal with more than three minutes left on the clock. But the final stages only included three suspensions and three missed shots – but no more goals.

Best scorers in this thrilling game were Sevaljevic, Lipovina and Borozan with four strikes each for Montenegro, and Momir Ilic, who scored five times for Serbia.

Group 5: Portugal vs. Hungary 25:26 (15:12)

As in the first leg against Hungary, Portugal once more let a clear lead slip from their hands.

They were leading by four goals (23:19) 13 minutes before the end, but like in October last year, when Portugal lost 30:31, Hungary turned the match around in its dying minutes.

Courtesy of this fifth win in their fifth match, Hungary are confirmed group winners, while Portugal remain on four points.

Russia also have four points in this group but have played one match less and will face Ukraine on Thursday again after they had beaten them on Wednesday.

Hungary led 8:7 when Portugal started taking control of the game. Thanks to ten goals of Gilberto Duarte, the hosts were ahead by three goals at the break and constantly defended this advantage until the 54th minute.

Then Hungary, who played without their top star Laszlo Nagy, scored four unanswered goals and equalised at 23:23.

A double strike of top scorer Richard Bodo (five goals in total) in two and one minute before the end granted Hungary the 26:24 lead and decided the thrilling match.

Group 6: Switzerland vs. FYR Macedonia 17:26 (8:15)

After the clear defeat of Czech Republic against France earlier on Wednesday, the Macedonians have now caught up with their rivals for the ticket to the EHF EURO as both teams, FYR Macedonia and Czech Republic, have five points now.

Hence everything is set for the “group final” on Sunday in Skopje when the two face for the ticket to Poland.

The Macedonian team was able to count on the prowess of their top star Kiril Lazarov who took to the court despite a smaller injury.

Furthermore their defence stood like a wall at the beginning, allowing the Swiss players to score only three goals in the first 17 minutes, while the Macedonian attack was successful on eight occasions. At the half-time break FYR Macedonia even led by seven goals.

And the Macedonians did not slow down but powered through until the end.

When they led 18:13, they scored a 6:2 series to bring the score to 24:15 – and eventually they also finished the game with a nine-goal gap.

Best scorers for Switzerland, who remain on zero points in Group 6, were Dmitry Küttel and Andy Schmid with four goals each, while Lazarov scored with five penalty shots from six attempts.

Group 7: Austria vs. Spain 24:30 (12:16)

Without their injured team captain Victor Szilagyi, Austria's chances for a win looked limited, but they gave the 2013 world champions a quite tough fight.

But eventually Spain had the upper hand and qualified for the EHF EURO after they recorded their fourth win in their fifth match. Thanks to this result, also Germany booked their EHF EURO 2016 ticket.

The match was much closer than the first leg (16:27), but again the Austrians were not really able to threaten their opponents.

The match was equal for the first 15 minutes, then Spain forged ahead to their first four-goal advantage at 11:7, a distance which stayed until the break.

When Austrian top scorer Raul Santos (six goals) netted at 17:19 20 minutes before the end, more than 3,000 fans in Innsbruck hoped for the sensation.

But Spain were smart enough to stay in control and by scoring a triple strike they sealed the deal at 22:17. Austria were not able to get any closer than three goals until the end.

The Spanish win was not only deserved, but also was the product of the teamwork as all court players apart from Iosu Goni scored. Top scorer for the Iberians was Valero Rivera jun. with five goals.

Group 7: Finland vs. Germany 20:34 (8:16)

Thanks to their fourth win in their fifth match and Spain's victory against Austria, Germany have clinched their berth at Poland 2016 already on Wednesday night.

Like in the first leg's 30:18, Finland did not have the power nor the skills to keep up with Germany.

Furthermore Finland head coach Mikael Källman, who will resign from his position after the EHF EURO Qualification and hence received a farewell ceremony after the end of the match, had to replace his regular top scorer Andreas Rönnberg.

For the first seven minutes (3:4) the match was equal, then Germany forged ahead thanks to the saves of goalkeeper Silvio Heinevetter and the goals of line player Patrick Wiencek.

With the score at 16:8 at the break the game was pretty much decided already.

At 22:12 the gap was double-figured for the first time – afterwards the German team intermediately slowed down the pace head coach Dagur Sigurdsson gave some playing time to his younger players. However, Germany never lost control and eventually won by 14 goals difference.

Best scorers were Uwe Gensheimer (six for Germany) and Nico Rönnberg (seven for Finland).


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
 
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