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01.11.2016, 06:41
The road to 2020 starts in Siracusa and Ankara
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ROUND PREVIEW: Italy and Turkey host the first qualifiers for the biggest ever EHF EURO event, when 24 teams will contest the European title in 2020
 

The road to 2020 starts in Siracusa and Ankara

In 38 months, the biggest ever Men’s EHF EURO event will throw off in Norway, Sweden and Austria.

On Wednesday, the first four nations start their ‘mission 2020’: Turkey and Kosovo in Group B and Italy and Georgia in Group C of the first qualification stage. Both sides will face each other again on Sunday.

In total, nine nations in three groups contest the first three tickets to the next qualification stage, with only the group winners proceeding from this phase. Groups B and C are played in home and away matches, while Group A meet for a tournament in Faroe Islands from 13 to 15 January 2017.

The other possibility for phase 1 teams to qualify for the second stage of EHF EURO 2020 Qualification is the European IHF Trophy, which will take place in June 2017.

The six teams that do not qualify from the first phase will join this tournament, for which nine other nations not contesting EHF EURO 2020 Qualification Phase 1 are also registered.

The EHF live ticker is available at ticker.ehf.eu.

GROUP B
Turkey vs Kosovo, Wednesday 2 November 19:00 hrs local time

This pairing has never occurred before in an official match on the European stage. Kosovo are aiming for their first ever victory in an official match, while for Turkey the road to 2020 is already a ‘now or never’.

The hosts want to forget their disappointing elimination by Belgium in the first qualification stage for the EHF EURO 2018.

Thanks to their number of internationally experienced players – such as Ramazan Döne and Tolga Özbahar from VELUX EHF Champions League side Besiktas Mogaz HT – they are the clear favourites on home ground against the newest EHF federation.

The Kosovo-Turkey re-match will be played in Kosovan capital Prishtina on Sunday, and the group’s third opponent Estonia will join the race to the 2020 event for their first match in January 2017.

GROUP C
Italy vs Georgia, Wednesday 2 November, 17:30 hrs local time

In 1998, Italy hosted the EHF EURO. Since then they have not made it to any major tournament; a story shared by their opponent Georgia.

These sides have clashed only once, in the first qualification stage of the EHF EURO 2012, and Italy finished this encounter victorious with a 30:25 win.

Since then, handball in Georgia has clearly improved, demonstrated by wins against Finland, Turkey and Lithuania in World Championship 2015 Qualification Round 1, and a draw against Estonia one year ago.

Both coaches – Fredi Radojkovic (Italy) and Bekar Orjonikidze (Georgia) – expect an equal group, with Luxembourg the third opponent.

“All teams are playing on approximately the same level at the moment. We have a very good generation of young players coming. I see the Georgian handball team in very good condition these days,” says Orjonikidze, who has to replace one of his key players, Vladimir Rusia, for the match in Siracusa.

“We will be more determined now, because in the first stage we are facing two teams that we know we can match,” adds Italian team captain Pasquale Maione.

The re-match between Georgia and Italy will be played in Tbilisi on Sunday.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / cg / ts
 
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