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12.03.2016, 11:00
Romania, Serbia and Hungary ready to book tickets to Sweden
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ROUND PREVIEW: Romania, Serbia and Hungary can secure their berth at the final tournament if they win their second-leg matches in the Women’s EHF EURO 2016 Qualification on Sunday
 

Romania, Serbia and Hungary ready to book tickets to Sweden

When Round 4 of the Women’s EHF EURO 2016 Qualification wraps up on Sunday several of the final tournament participants may be confirmed.

In Group 1 Romania have the chance to be one of the first to book their ticket to Sweden when they take on the Norway.

Group 2 sees a similar situation with Serbia, in their game against Czech Republic, on the cusp of clinching their berth at the final tournament

In Group 5 Hungary can look forward to repeating their solid win against Poland on Wednesday in front of a home crowd, with the extra motivation of a ticket to the EHF EURO 2016 awaiting them at the final whistle should they win.

GROUP 1: Belarus vs Lithuania, Sunday 17:00 local time in Minsk

Lithuania travel to Belarus for a must-win game if they have any hope of continuing along the road to the final tournament in Sweden.

But the chances of anything other than a victory for Belarus are slim given the hosts for Sunday’s match won so decisively in their first-leg encounter in Kaunas.

Lithuania relied heavily on Diana Satkauskaite in the Round 3 meeting on Wednesday, but even nine goals from the left back could not bring her team closer than a final score of 21:29.

The visitors will look to Satkauskaite again as they aim for their first win of the EHF EURO 2016 Qualification, which would lift them to two points alongside Belarus on the table.

GROUP 1: Norway vs Romania, Sunday 18:00 local time in Stavanger

On Wednesday Romania defeated Norway for the first time in an official match since they met in the EHF EURO Qualification in 2000.

Many are quick to point to Cristina Neagu, who contributed 10 goals to the 25:20 effort, as the key factor in the victory.

But Romania are far more than their star left back, and strong performances from the likes of 22-year-old centre back Eliza Buceschi, who is working increasingly effectively in partnership with Neagu, confirmed how far the team have come in just one year with coach Tomas Ryde.

“We're focused. We expected a difficult match after the last duel against Norway in the World Championship,” said Neagu after the historic win 15 years in the making. “We started well and we kept pace.”

It will therefore be crucial for Romania to start well and keep pace once again on Sunday if they are to claim the difficult away win and secure their berth at the final tournament.

But defeating Norway away is very different from winning against the Olympic, world and European champions at home in front of what will surely be a sold-out arena – and Norway are likely to be determined to make amends for their performance in the first-leg match with a win that would move them up to six points beside Romania at the top of the table.

GROUP 2: Ukraine vs Italy, Sunday 15:30 local time in Uzhgorod

Ukraine won the first-leg match against Italy 37:19, and can now look confidently ahead to a second strong game in front of a home crowd.

Italy are yet to add any points to their tally, while Ukraine are on two behind group leaders Serbia on six and Czech Republic on four.

In the Round 3 match Italy contained their opponents until just before the 20-minute mark, when Ukraine began to open up their decisive advantage.

Italy will therefore be hoping to keep pace for as long as possible, but the odds point to a victory for the home side.

GROUP 2: Serbia vs Czech Republic, Sunday 18:00 local time in Kraljevo

For Serbia the first-leg clash against Czech Republic on Wednesday was a perfect night – it was new coach Dragica Djuric’s debut match with the team, and they enjoyed strong games from players identified as part of their current development strategy.

Katarina Krpez Slezak, Sladana Pop-Lazic and Jelena Zivkovic were all in excellent form when they defeated Czech Republic 30:25 in Round 3, contributing 19 goals between them.

On Sunday Serbia will have the home crowd behind them and as such, are the strong favourites to record a second win against Czech Republic and book their ticket to Sweden in the process.

GROUP 5: Hungary vs Poland, Sunday 18:30 local time in Erd (live on ehfTV)

Poland visit Hungary on Sunday for what will likely be a challenging match. After losing the home leg of the double-header against the very team they eliminated at the World Championship 2015, Poland are now in second place on the table behind Hungary and have some work to do before their place in Sweden is secured.

Hungary can clinch their berth for the EHF EURO 2016 in December with a win in this match, which appears the most likely outcome after their strong showing on Wednesday.

Both teams are without big-scoring players, with Hungary captain Zsuzsanna Tomori still recovering from her knee injury at Denmark 2015 and Poland’s Karolina Kudlacz-Gloc out with a broken jaw.

GROUP 6: Turkey vs Portugal, Sunday 16:00 local time in Ankara

The two bottom-of-the-table sides meet for their second match of the week after Portugal won against Turkey on Thursday.

Portugal earned two points with the victory that moved them to third on the table, while Turkey stayed behind on zero.

It was a rather narrow win however, with a final score of 24:23, which means the two points up for grabs on Sunday could go to either side.

Turkey are known for making excellent use of the home crowd advantage, with club and national teams from the handball nation routinely pulling off surprise wins with the help of support from the stands.

The home side therefore enter the match with a strong possibility to claim their first win of the EHF EURO 2016 Qualification.

GROUP 7: Iceland vs Switzerland, Sunday 16:30 local time in Hafnarfjordur

Another close encounter can be expected when Iceland welcome Switzerland on Sunday. When Switzerland won the first-leg match on Thursday 22:21, it was their first victory against Iceland in an official match since 1997, but they may struggle to secure the two points away. 

The score lists from the Round 3 match indicate Switzerland’s reliance on their starting seven, with just six players contributing goals to their first-leg win.

Iceland have a deeper roster with more players able to step up to the responsibility, and the historical results are in their favour, which means they have a good chance to take their first win of the competition on Sunday.


TEXT: Courtney Gahan / ts
 
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