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03.11.2016, 23:22
Serbia shock Poland, huge wins for the Olympic finalists
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ROUND REVIEW: Round 1 of the EHF EURO 2018 Qualification concluded with victories for Denmark, France, Sweden and Serbia on Thursday evening.
 

Serbia shock Poland, huge wins for the Olympic finalists

Goal differences of +17, +15 and +9 for France, Sweden and Denmark respectively in their opening matches of the EHF EURO 2018 qualification on Thursday night saw the trio of former European champions clear their first hurdle without any problems. But there was one big surprise on the night - the 32:37 home defeat of Olympic semi-finalist Poland against a brilliant Serbian team.

All results meant that three new coaches had a successful start to their new mission.

GROUP 1
Denmark vs Netherlands 29:20 (15:12)

The Danish men took revenge for their junior after the Dutch U20 side clearly beat the Danes in a test match 32:24 on Wednesday. At senior level tonight, the tide was turned completely.

After a quite equal first half, the Olympic champions left the Netherlands behind thanks to a strong defence and the back court axis of Mikkel Hansen (8 goals) and Kasper Söndergaard (5) on fire, Denmark continued where they had finished at Rio 2016.

Surprisingly, the Dutch team of Coach Joop Fiege could not count on experienced defence specialist Mark Bult, who was supposed to make his comeback in the match. Even 11 players, all at German clubs, could not prevent the Netherlands from a huge defeat.

Though Bobby Schagen and Ivo Steins (seven goals each) were unstoppable in attack, the Dutch side was far away from endangering the 2008 and 2012 EHF EURO champions.

Before the break, the Danes had a light advantage thanks to five goals from five attempts by Mikkel Hansen, but in the second half, they fired on all cylinders.

Nearly all their court players were in the scoring list at the end of the match and within 14 minutes of the second half gone the Danes already decided the outcome of the match, forging ahead from 15:13 to the decisive double-figured result at 25:15 and the task of coming back was made virtually impossible as Dutch defensive specialist Toon Leenders received a red card after his third suspension.

GROUP 2
Poland vs Serbia 32:37 (14:20)

Nearly 70 goals, a perfect debut for new coach Jovica Cvetkovic and a shocked Polish side in front of a sold-out, 5,000 capacity ERGO Arena in Gdansk were the ingredients in the highest-scoring match of the Men’s EHF EURO Qualification Phase 2 so far.

Polish coach Talant Dujshebaev was furious on the bench, but his players just could not stop their downswing after a lacklustre start. Beaten by familiar weapons, such as Kielce’s right wing Darko Djukic, who scored six times from six attempts before the break and former Kielce line player Rastko Stojkovic, these players provided the keys for a close-to-perfection first half for Serbia.

Boosted by an outstanding middle block - Mijajlo Marsenic and Ilija Abutovic - and backed by the fact that the Polish attack was extremely weak; the 2012 EHF EURO hosts outclassed the 2016 hosts in their Gdansk fortress. Even an early Dujshebaev team timeout did not wake up his team immediately, as Serbia managed to cast off the Olympic semi-finalist already at 11:3 in the debut match of new national team coach Jovica Cvetkovic.

But somehow the hosts managed to keep themselves in the game, improving in attack, but still not close enough to their opponents in defence. At the break and just six goals down (20:14), the world looked a little better for Poland. Dujshebaev changed goalkeeper from Piotr Wyszomirski to legendary Slawomir Szmal, and initially his team were on the right track to turn the match around in the second period.

But two suspensions against Poland, a double strike from Petar Nenadic and a surprising direct free throw goal by former Plock right back Nemanja Zelenovic strengthened the Serbs, who again forged ahead to a seven goal advance (29:22) in the 43rd minute. Even being shorthanded did not stop the Serbian attack, and when top scorer Nenadic (10 goals, three ahead of Zelenovic and Stojkovic) netted in to make it 33:27 with a penalty, the first-ever Serbian away win in Poland for an official match was secured.

GROUP 6
Sweden vs Montenegro 36:21 (14:9)

Maybe the surprising departure of Head Coach Ljubomir Obradovic, who resigned on Tuesday night after a training incident, was too much for the Montenegrins. Maybe Sweden were just too strong - but definitely the nut was not that hard to crack for the team of Kristjan Andresson, making his debut as Swedish head coach.

Even the fact that they had to replace their experienced stars Andreas Palicka (goal) and Andreas Nilsson (line player) due to injuries, it did not stop the hosts. The newly-formed defence without former ‘bosses’ Mattias Andersson and Tobias Karlsson was rock-solid, with goalkeeper Mikael Appelgren saving some important shots - and Sweden easily took a 10:4 lead.

But Montenegro struck back, netting three in a row, and only two late goals from Viktor Östlund and Albin Lagergren were the reason for the quite comfortable 14:9 half-time score.

As the second half started Vuko Borozan missed three consecutive shots for Montenegro and Sweden again had the better start, scoring a 5:1 series within only four minutes to put them 18:10 up.

The Scandinavians kept in front, as in this period mainly Jim Gottfridsson and Niklas Ekberg were unstoppable. Scoring his fifth of a total six goals, Flensburg’s left back Gottfridsson increased the gap to 22:13.

When usual left wing Jonas Källman netted to make the lead double-figures at 24:14 the easier-than-expected result was secured for the hosts. The 15-goal defeat against Sweden must have felt like a demolition for Montenegro - after previously eliminating their opponents in the 2013 IHF Men’s World Championship play-offs.

GROUP 7

France vs Lithuania 37:20 (21:7)

Lithuanian back court ace Gerdas Barbarskas was more than right by predicting “maybe France are too strong for us” ahead of the match. The debut of the new coaching duo of legendary players Didier Dinart and Guillaume Gille was a clear statement of the three-time EHF EURO champions (2006, 2010, 2014) towards all of their opponents.

After only 11 minutes and with the score of 9:3 all Lithuanian hopes of getting anything from the game had been shattered, mainly driven by their VELUX EHF Champions League stars Kentin Mahe (Flensburg, top scorer with seven goals), Timothy N’Guessan (FC Barcelona) and Valentin Portes (Montpellier), France forged ahead goal after goal. Their traditionally strong defence stood like a wall and the Baltic side were like a rabbit in the headlights.

Even the injury-struck absence of their double Olympic champion Daniel Narcisse did not have any negative effect on the French side, which needed just 21 minutes to get up by 10, at 16:6. This enabled Gille and Dinart to start their huge rotation putting in young guns for top-level experience

It was not until the 40th minute that two-time IHF World Handball Player of the Year Nikola Karabatic scored his first goal – which put his side 15 goals up (30:15).

In form like this, his side should not get in any danger in their second qualifier at Belgium on Sunday, while the Lithuanians need to get their heads clear for their encounter with Norway.


TEXT: Bjorn Pazen/amc
 
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