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01.06.2016, 20:53
Six teams qualify for the EHF EURO 2016
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ROUND REVIEW 1: Norway, Romania, Serbia, the Netherlands, Hungary and Poland win their away fixtures in Round 5 of the qualification phase to secure their tickets to Sweden
 

Six teams qualify for the EHF EURO 2016

Six teams secured their place at the Women’s EHF EURO 2016 in Sweden in Round 5 of the qualification phase on Wednesday.

Norway, Romania, Serbia, the Netherlands, Hungary and Poland, all playing away, recorded the expected wins to secure their places at the final tournament, while Group 4 is wide open after a surprise win for Slovenia against Croatia.  

Group 1: Belarus vs Norway 22:32 (9:15)

In contrast with the tactics of other teams ahead of their Round 5 qualification matches this week, which saw many coaches including Henk Groener and the Hungary pairing of Ambros Martin and Gabor Elek confident of a win and therefore choosing to leave some of their star players off the start list, Norway showed they were not taking any chances when it came to securing their place in Sweden.

The only big name missing from their squad was Heide Loke, so Belarus welcomed a near full-strength Norway team for their second meeting of the qualification phase.

The first three goals of the match were scored by the visitors, after which Belarus began to find the net. They trailed behind the current European champions, however, with the biggest score line of the half coming when Stine Oftedal put Norway in front 12:4 with just over 10 minutes left in the period.

But a stronger 10 minutes for the visitors followed, and they recorded a 5:3 run that closed the gap to a more attainable six goals by half-time.

The early difference would prove too much to overcome however. Norway maintained control through the second period with a comfortable seven-goal advantage at 25:18 with 10 minutes left on the clock.

At the full-time whistle Norway recorded a 10-goal win, adding the crucial two points to their tally that booked their place at the final tournament. Belarus remain on four points ahead of Lithuania, still on zero following their defeat to Romania.  

Group 1: Lithuania vs Romania 24:34 (11:20)

Romania were another side expected to record the comfortable win they did on Wednesday, which takes them to eight points on the table and secures their spot in Sweden.

Cristina Neagu was missing from the visitors’ start list, as might have been expected given coach Thomas Ryde’s tactics in their second-leg fixture against Norway in Round 4, when the left back spent the match on the bench.

Ryde was quickly proved correct in his confidence when Romania had no trouble creating a 12:4 advantage by midway through the first half.

It was a well-earned lead with almost every player shooting at 100 per cent and three goals each for Valentina Ardean Elisei, Eliza Iulia Buceschi and Florina Chintoan in the first 15 minutes.

By the time the half-time whistle sounded the visitors were in front by nine goals and looking strong to secure their qualification for the tournament in December.

As the match progressed almost every Romanian player made their way onto the score board, with Chintoan finishing the top scorer for the visiting side with six goals.

Despite seven goals from Brigita Ivanauskaite, Lithuania could not come close to the World Championship 2015 bronze medallists, and Romania secured a 10-goal victory.

Group 2: Ukraine vs Serbia 26:31 (12:15)

In a high-scoring first half Serbia raced ahead to a 3:0 lead after five minutes, after which Ukraine joined their visitors on the score board.

The home side’s slow opening meant they were chasing Serbia through the first half, coming within one goal for the first time at 6:7 just before the 15-minute mark.

Serbia maintained a narrow edge but the difference now fluctuated between just one or two goals, where before the away team has held a more comfortable three-to-four goal advantage.

Iryna Glibko (nine goals) was the main force in attack for Ukraine, contributing six goals in the first half, while the visitors spread their workload and scored from all angles.

At the beginning of the second period it looked as though Serbia would begin to increase their lead, but after a few unanswered goals from the visitors Ukraine found their way to the back of the net again.

The home team came as close as three goals at 23:26 with five minutes remaining, before Serbia finished strong to lead by five at the final whistle.

Serbia move up to nine points with the Round 5 victory, while Ukraine stay on four.

Group 3: Bulgaria vs Netherlands 16:45 (8:19)

The Netherlands were so confident they would secure the vital two points that would book their place in Sweden that they let several stars off the start list for the match in Gabrova.

Missing Tess Wester, Lois Abbingh, Yvette Broch, Michelle Goos, Nycke Groot, Laura van der Heijden, Angela Malestein and Estavana Polman, the Dutch created an early advantage that Bulgaria were unable to recover from.

Led by line player Danicka Snelder, who scored four of the Netherlands’ goals in the opening 10 minutes, the visitors were in complete control from the first whistle. Midway through the half they held a commanding 12:4 lead, and at the break were in front by more than 10 goals.

Netherlands coach Henk Groener began to rotate through the bench early, and by half-time almost every Dutch player had contributed to their comfortable lead, with five goals each for Snelder and Debbie Bont.

Bulgaria hit double figures on the score board for the first time with just over 20 minutes remaining in the match – 25 minutes after the Netherlands had done so in the first quarter when they led 10:4.

At that point it was clear the Dutch would hold on to claim their fourth win of the qualification phase, earning their place at the final tournament in December.

The top scorer of the match was Netherlands right wing Jurswailly Luciano, who scored all eight of her eight shots in the last 20 minutes of the game.

Group 4: Slovenia vs Croatia 24:23 (9:11)

Croatia coach Goran Mrden was confident his team would secure their place in Sweden with at least the draw they needed to do so against Slovenia, but the group is now open after the visitors recorded a surprise loss that means there are now three teams in the group on six points – though FYR Macedonia and Montenegro are yet to play their Round 5 match.

Croatia were first on the board but the match was a one-for-one contest that stayed level throughout the first 25 minutes, including a five-minute period with no goals from either side after the score of 2:3.

Neither team shot with great accuracy, relying on a few key players to add to the score board. Andrea Penezic and Sonja Basic scored three goals each for Croatia in the first 25 minutes, while Ana Gros took the bulk of the responsibility with the same number for Slovenia.

Croatia played a strong few minutes when they kept Slovenia from scoring in the last five minutes of the half, while Penezic added another two goals that put them in front by a crucial two at the break.

But that lead was far from enough to keep Slovenia at bay, and the second half saw much the same neck-and-neck scoring race as the first.

The match became a shooting contest between Croatian backs Penezic and Basic and the Slovenian duo Gros and Neli Irman. Basic, Gros and Irman all finished the match with a tally of eight goals, while Penezic netted seven.

When the clock showed 50 minutes the momentum was with the home side, as they led 21:18.

The visitors came back to level the score at 21:21 with a penalty scored by Penezic with five minutes left, but after that Croatia scored only one goal, while Slovenia scored three that allowed them to claim a late advantage and record a one-goal win.

Group 5: Slovakia vs Hungary 23:32 (12:15)

As Hungary won the first meeting of the EHF EURO 2016 Qualification Phase between these teams by 13 goals, with a final score of 32:19, they were not expecting a great challenge in Slovakia.

But the first half was a more level contest than predicted, with the score neck-and-neck through the first 30 minutes.

Slovakia left back Martina Skolkova caused a lot of trouble for Hungary’s defence, hammering in six goals from six shots in the first half.

It was not until the last minutes of the first period that Hungary created the first two-goal advantage of the match, with a penalty from Zita Szucsanszki followed by a goal from Szandra Szollosi-Zacsik taking the score to 14:12 in favour of the visitors.

Nadine Schatzl scored her first with five seconds left on the clock to give Hungary a crucial three-goal lead at the break.

The second half was completely different from the first. Hungary returned to quickly move further in front with a four-goal series that took the score to 19:12 in the 37th minute.

Slovakia managed only sporadic goals as Hungary began to score from all sides and increased their lead. When Rea Reka Meszaros scored her second to put the visitors ahead by 10 at 29:19 with just over five minutes left on the clock, it was clear Hungary would also celebrate a Round 5 qualification.

Group 5: Finland vs Poland 11:33 (3:17)

Poland were expected to come away with a comfortable win from this away encounter, and they did not hesitate to prove they would settle for nothing less.  

With four goals in succession Poland pulled in front to 4:0 after five minutes, before allowing Finland to hit the net only twice in the next 10 minutes.

Despite the clear advantage Poland were not at their best, with an attack efficiency of just 35 per cent for the first 20 minutes. It was Finland’s comparatively lower figure of eight per cent for the same period that enabled Poland to retain such a commanding lead without playing at the top of their game.

At the 20-minute mark Karolina Kudlacz-Gloc (nine goals total) was the visiting team’s biggest weapon, contributing five goals by this stage, while Finland’s two goals had come from Bettina Lillqvist and Linda Cainberg.

Poland did not let up as the clock ticked on, allowing only one more Finnish goal, from Lotta Kulju, before half-time. The visitors were in front by 14 goals at the break, and it seemed the two points were all but allocated.

Poland hit a 20-goal lead with seven minutes left on the clock, at which point they could begin to celebrate their fourth set of two points and with it their berth in Sweden.


TEXT: Courtney Gahan / bc
 
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