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02.11.2016, 22:50
Strong start for defending champions
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ROUND REVIEW 2: Germany, Norway and Spain open with clear victories, Czech Republic versus Iceland and Austria against Finland turn into thrillers in EHF EURO 2018 Qualification
 

Strong start for defending champions

Defending European champions and Rio 2016 bronze medallists Germany joined Norway and Spain in recording strong opening wins that set them on the path to EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia with their first sets of two points, while the tightest contests took place Groups 3 and 4.

In Group 3, Finland became the second team qualified from EHF EURO 2018 Qualification Phase 1 to secure a surprise win after Romania achieved a victory against Belarus earlier in the evening. After trailing by two at half-time the Nordic team managed a four-goal win against their hosts.

In Group 4, Iceland secured their one-goal win against Czech Republic in the dying minutes.

GROUP 3
Austria vs Finland 27:31 (16:14)

Head coach Kaj Kekki made it clear one of Finland’s primary goals in EHF EURO 2018 Qualification Phase 2: Player development. But the Nordic team managed much more in their opening game.

An initial advantage of 3:0 secured by THW Kiel’s Nikola Bilyk seemed an ominous sign for the visitors, before Finland came back within one by the 10th minute and the contest began.  

Austria could not shake their guests, who allowed a maximum difference of two goals until the home team inched ahead to 12:9 in the 23rd. Finland showed an ability to decrease the deficit time and time again during the match, and pulled Austria back to a two-goal score line at half-time.

When the game resumed Finland added a run of goals that levelled the score at 17:17 in the 34th, and with 12 minutes left the match was still equal at 23:23 – then came the real twist.

Three consecutive goals from Finland earned the visitors the advantage at 27:24, after which Austria could find no way to stop the onslaught of goals. Teemu Tamminen led Finland’s run through the closing minutes, scoring four of his 10 in the last 10 minutes to help seal the surprise win.

Spain vs Bosnia Herzegovina 30:21 (12:6)

Spain entered EHF EURO 2018 Qualification Phase 2 following a somewhat difficult year. Only months after they won the silver medal at EHF EURO 2016, the team missed qualification for their first Olympic Games since 1976.

But with the recent appointment of former Brazil coach Jordi Ribera and a first solid win to begin their 2018 campaign, the situation is becoming brighter for the 2013 world champions.

Drawing on their experienced squad, Spain had little trouble controlling Bosnia Herzegovina after allowing their guests a narrow advantage through the first quarter of the match.

Following Marko Panic’s goal for 4:3 in favour of the visitors, Spain kept Bosnia Herzegovina out of the goal for 13 minutes while they created a substantial advantage.

By the time Benjamin Buric added another for the visitors in the 27th minute, the 2013 world champions had turned the one-goal deficit into an 11:5 lead.

Spain retained the six-goal difference at half-time, and when the teams returned for the second period they quickly increased their advantage to 10 goals, well and truly deciding the winner of the two points with more than 20 minutes remaining.

GROUP 4
Iceland vs Czech Republic 25:24 (12:10)

Though Iceland were the favourites playing at home it was not expected to be an easy win for the hosts, and Czech Republic ensured that was the case when they took the lead initially.

The visitors created a 7:4 advantage off a goal from Miroslav Jurka before Iceland halted their progress, after which a 5:0 run for Iceland turned the tables. The hosts claimed the lead at 9:7 before Czech Republic fought their way back.

With five minutes left in the half the score was level at 10:10, but the hosts were the only side to score after the 25-minute mark, enabling them to take a two-goal advantage into the break.

In the second period it was Czech Republic that returned stronger, and when Filip Jicha scored his first goal 10 minutes in they held a narrow advantage at 16:15.

The guests maintained a one-goal lead with Iceland equalising in the one-for-one game that persisted until Arnor Gunnarsson scored his crucial fifth goal which took Iceland in front once more, before Aron Palmarsson secured the win in the 58th.

Palmarsson’s goal put Iceland in front 25:23, and though Czech Republic added one more there were no goals scored in the last two minutes and the guests were forced to settle for a defeat.

GROUP 5
Germany vs Portugal 35:24 (16:10)

The 2016 European champions began their campaign to defend their title with a decisive win against Portugal, despite missing several of those who helped claim the trophy in January. Fabian Wiede, Rune Dahmke and Julius Kühn were all sidelined from the opening EHF EURO 2018 Qualification match due to injury, while Christian Dissinger and Martin Strobel have announced breaks from the national team.

Every single player that did feature on the team roster for Wednesday’s match contributed to the victory, with Finn Lemke and goalkeeper Silvio Heinevetter the only players not on the score board at the final whistle.

Even starting keeper Andreas Wolff added a long-range goal before he was replaced late in the second half by Heinevetter.

Germany took the lead early and wasted no time looking back, playing at full pace through to the final whistle.

Portugal kept within range at 6:9 15 minutes into the match before Wolff’s goal led the hosts to become more dominant, and by half-time the Rio 206 bronze medallists held a six-goal advantage that meant the outcome was all but decided.

In the second period Germany immediately increased their lead, hitting a 10-goal advantage for the first time in the 54th minute thanks to Matthias Musche (six goals total).

Musche was the last player to find the back of the net, earning Germany a clear 11-goal difference and with it their first two points 30 seconds before the final whistle.

GROUP 7
Norway vs Belgium 35:26 (20:14)

As Belgium made their way to this stage of qualification from Qualification Phase 1 followed by a win in the play-off stage, their match against the team that ranked fourth at the EHF EURO 2016 was expected to be a difficult one for the visitors.

Belgium could do little to slow a rampaging Norway team that missed only 10 goals in the entire 60 minutes, with six players recording 100% shooting accuracy – including six goals from as many shots for Bjarte Myrhol and three for Kristian Björnsen, Eivind Tangen and Harald Reinkind.

Just as Germany did in the game played simultaneously in Wetzlar, Norway created a three-goal advantage at 9:6 after 15 minutes before pulling ahead to a lead of six by half-time.

It took Norway only five minutes into the second half to increase that advantage to 10 when Tangen took the score to 25:15, and the Scandinavian side went on to lead by as many as 13 goals before Belgium reeled them in to the nine-goal difference at the buzzer.


TEXT: Courtney Gahan / ew
 
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