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11.03.2016, 11:25
First tickets to the EHF EURO 2016 beckon for the best
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ROUND PREVIEW: Saturday will see seven Women’s EHF EURO 2016 qualifiers being played, with Russia, Netherlands, France and Croatia already having the opportunity to confirm their participation at the final tournament
 

First tickets to the EHF EURO 2016 beckon for the best

The opening day of Round 4 of the Women’s EHF EURO 2016 Qualification on Saturday can already confirm the first participants for the final tournament in December in Sweden.

Russia, Netherlands, France and Croatia have all the best possible tally of six points after three matches and another win would secure them the ticket to the EHF EURO.

On the other hand, Spain (against Netherlands), Montenegro (against Croatia) and Denmark (against Russia) – all three of them former EHF EURO winners or finalists – will be out for revenge on home ground after they lost their respective top duels in Round 3.

For Austria, Slovenia and Slovakia the motto for their matches is “must win”, while their opponents, Finland, FYR Macedonia and Bulgaria, find themselves again in the underdogs’ role.

Group 3: Spain vs. Netherlands, 13:00 hrs. local time in Leon

After their surprisingly clear 31:21 win on home court against the EHF EURO 2014 silver medallists, Netherlands travel to Leon full of confidence.

“We have continued the way we played at the World Championship (when the Netherlands won silver),” Dutch coach Henk Groener said after the first leg win that lifted his team to the top of Group 3 with six points after three matches.

Given the ranking, the Dutch side could become the first team to book their ticket to Sweden 2016 provided they win against Spain.

The team of head Jorge Duenas has four points on its tally and needs to improve if they want to leave the World Championship 2015 silver medallists behind.

Two years ago, in the qualification to the EHF EURO 2014, Spain managed to take revenge. Following a 22:27 defeat in the Netherlands, they beat them 29:22 victory on home ground.

Catch up with an entertaining Round 3 of the Women's EHF EURO 2016 qualifiers at httpa//swe2016.ehf-euro.com/:::http://swe2016.ehf-euro.com/

Posted by EHF EURO on Thursday, March 10, 2016

Group 3: Austria vs. Bulgaria, Saturday, 20:25 hrs. local time in Bregenz

Playing at home, Austria coach Herbert Müller expects another win for his team which easily took the points in Round 3 with a clear 33:20 victory.

Considering the considerably larger international experience the team possesses, Austria are the big favourites on home ground against Bulgaria.

“We have to put the same pressure on them again to remain in the race for the EURO qualification,” said Müller after the first leg.

Austria need to replace some injured players, but Beate Scheffknecht, who had been suffering from a bruised rib ahead of the double-header, will also play the second.

In Bulgaria, she proved here importance for the team by netting eight goals.

Group 4: FYR Macedonia vs. Slovenia, 20:00 hrs. local time in Skopje

In the qualification to the EHF EURO 2012 FYR Macedonia won their home matches against France, Lithuania and Turkey to eventually qualify for the final tournament.

Ever since the team did not win a single match in any World Championship or EHF EURO Qualification and with the 17:35 loss to Slovenia on Thursday in mind, the hopes are considerably low to cause an upset.

Slovenia, who took their first two points in this qualification campaign, are the favourites in Skopje and want to remain in the race for Sweden 2016, as they chase Montenegro and Croatia for one of the two top spots in Group 4.

Group 4: Montenegro vs. Croatia, 20:30 hrs. local time in Bar

Which run will continue? This is the major question prior to the second leg of this group’s top duel.

Since 2008 Montenegro have not lost any qualification match in any event at home ground and tied only three times.

On the other hand, Croatia won seven of the last eight duels against the EHF EURO 2012 champions.

On Thursday night Croatia’s Andrea Penezic scored 12 goals to decide the game in her team’s favour when Croatia took a narrow 23:22 win.

But with the support of their frenetic fans in Bar, the hosts are the favourites in this decisive duel.

Group 5: Slovakia vs. Finland, 16:00 hrs. local time in Partizanske

Anything else than another lesson in European top handball for the Finnish side would be a surprise following Slovakia’s clear 29:15 away win on Wednesday.

Slovakia – featuring a number of players that ply their trade in Europe’s top leagues - still vie for a spot at the EHF EURO as the win against Finland marked the team’s first win.

If Hungary win their home match against Poland on Sunday and Slovakia take the expected win on Saturday, the team has the fate back in its hand ahead of the final two round in June.

Group 6: Denmark vs. Russia, 17:10 hrs. local time in Naestved (live on ehfTV)

Russia can qualify already for the EHF EURO in Sweden if they continue the way they played on Wednesday when they beat Denmark 31:27.

The Scandinavians still miss a huge number of key players and Currently Russia top the group table with six points, two points ahead of their Danish rivals.

With the top duo Anna Vyakhireva and Ekaterina Ilina in a form like they were in the first leg, when they scored 15 of the 31 Russian goals, an away victory is within reach.

Group 7: France vs. Germany, 20:00 hrs. local time in Nimes

For 18 years France are unbeaten when it comes to EHF EURO qualification matches on home ground; their last defeat occurred in 1998 when they lost a qualifier 15:20 against EHF EURO record champions Norway.

So the statistical chances of Germany to take revenge for the 21:24 defeat on home ground on Wednesday are rather slim.

“We have our chances to win, but everything needs to fit 110 percent”, Germany’s head coach Jakob Vestergaard said before travelling to Nimes.

France would clinch the berth for the EHF EURO already if they win the game and their top star is currently playing like being on fire, proven by the nine goals she scored in the first leg.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
 
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