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03.06.2016, 11:56
Can any team destroy Slovenia’s dream?
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SATURDAY PREVIEW: On paper it seems certain that a team from Group 4 – most likely Slovenia – will qualify as the best third ranked team for the Women’s EHF EURO 2016. Only a handball miracle could change this, and who says that miracles never happen?
 

Can any team destroy Slovenia’s dream?

15 of the 16 spots at the Women’s EHF EURO 2016 are decided after five qualification rounds have been played. The only decision pending is the one about the best third ranked team.

Currently Slovenia is in prime position as their 24:23 win against Croatia granted them two valuable points because in the “best third ranked team”-ranking only the matches against the teams ranked first and second are taken into account.

This means that all other teams, who still have a chance to finish third, would first of all need a win, as Slovenia are the only team to have claimed points for the “best third team”-ranking to date. Second of all, they would have to hope that Slovenia loses to Montenegro and that they eventually also have a better goal difference than Slovenia.

Sounds impossible? Well, if not earlier than at the very latest Vive Tauron Kielce’s comeback in the final of the VELUX EHF Champions League has shown that very little is impossible in handball.

Here are the previews for Saturday, 4 June. The final tournament draw will take place in Gothenburg on 10 June and will be streamed live on ehf-euro.com.

Group 1: Romania vs. Belarus, 19:00 hrs local time in Piatra Neamt

If the Group 1 matches pan out as expected, Romania will finish second as they have lost the direct encounter against Norway on aggregate. However, the World Championship bronze medallists and their top star Cristina Neagu will be eager to finish the qualification on a high and with a victory in front of their home fans.

The first leg was quite equal, with Belarus showing strong resistance before they eventually succumbed to the Romanian pressure and lost 23:25. On home court Romania can be expected to have even fewer problems.

Belarus theoretically still have the chance to finish this qualification as the best third ranked team with a very clear win and if other results go their way, but in reality the chances are more than limited.

Group 1: Norway vs. Lithuania, 19:30 hrs. local time in Oslo

After having secured the ticket to the Women’s EHF EURO 2016 against Belarus on Wednesday, Norway are expected to give a lot of players some court time in their final match of this qualification campaign.

In the first leg Norway won 28:21 and they are even more the favourites when they play at home against Lithuania who still wait for their points in this qualification campaign.

Group 2: Serbia vs. Italy, 18:00 hrs local time in Kraljevo

Serbia are already confirmed as group winner, which is why the match against bottom-ranked Italy is more an opportunity for interim coach Dragica Duric to test and try a few things.

Serbia cannot be overtaken anymore by Czech Republic. They won the away match against Italy 32:19 back in October last year.

Group 2: Czech Republic vs. Ukraine, 18:10 hrs. local time in Most

It is more or less a match for honour in Most. Czech Republic are qualified for the EHF EURO and they will definitely finish second in Group 2.

Ukraine still have a theoretical chance to finish third, but the chances are much higher that the team will miss out on its first Women’s EHF EURO event.

In the first leg, Ukraine produced a good performance for a long time but eventually they lost 20:24 to Czech Republic.

Group 3: Netherlands vs. Austria, 16:00 hrs local time in 's-Hertogenbosch

After their impressive 45:16 against Bulgaria on Wednesday, which booked the Netherlands the ticket to Sweden, the team has a much tougher nut to crack on home ground.

Austria hoped for a win against Spain but were eventually left chanceless on Wednesday and lost 26:33. Hence the Netherlands and Spain have booked their tickets – and Austria only have a very small chance left to qualify as the best third ranked team.

The Dutch World Championship runners-up have their fate to finish on top of the group in their hands as they won the direct encounter against Spain on aggregate.

Group 4: Spain vs. Bulgaria, 18:00 hrs local time in Malaga

Another lesson in international women’s handball is expected to be taught to Bulgaria when they meet EHF EURO 2014 silver medallists Spain in Malaga.

Spain will know their final fate already when the game starts. If the Netherlands do not beat Austria on Saturday afternoon, Spain have a chance to make it to the top of the group. If the Netherlands win against Austria, Spain will definitely finish second.

Group 5: Poland vs. Slovakia, 20:00 hrs local time in Plock

Poland are already qualified for the Women’s EHF EURO 2016 but they only have a chance to finish on top of Group 5 if they win against Slovakia, and Hungary do not win against Finland on Sunday.

The duel against Slovakia was a relatively even match in the first leg, but eventually Poland recorded a 23:21 win. Slovakia’s chances to make it to Sweden 2016 as the best third ranked team are limited after their clear home defeat against Hungary on Wednesday (23:32).

Group 7: France vs. Switzerland, 20:00 hrs local time in Beauvais

Switzerland put a great fight against Germany for 60 minutes on Wednesday but eventually lost 23:25 and remain on two points.

The hopes to score a second win in this qualification are close to zero as France will definitely want to finish their campaign qualification with a clean sweep of six wins from six matches.

France had no real problems winning the first leg in Switzerland 28:19.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
 
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