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04.11.2016, 16:09
Six teams look for Round 2 wins
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ROUND PREVIEW: Spain, FYR Macedonia, Iceland, Germany, Sweden and Finland all aim to secure Round 2 victories when EHF EURO 2018 Qualification continues on Saturday
 

Six teams look for Round 2 wins

The second round of EHF EURO 2018 Qualification matches begin on Saturday, with Spain, FYR Macedonia, Iceland, Germany and Sweden looking to follow up on their success in the opening round while Finland and Slovakia hope to cause some surprises.

The EHF live ticker for all matches is available here.

Furthermore, Czech Republic’s encounter against FYR Macedonia will be broadcast live on ehfTV.

GROUP 3
Finland vs Spain, Saturday 5 November, 14:30 local time

Finland will enter their second EHF EURO 2018 Qualification match on a high after they pulled off a surprise 31:27 win against Austria in their opener on Wednesday.

The Nordic team, who made it to the second qualification phase from the very first round of qualification matches beginning in October 2014, kept pace with Austria through to the last 10 minutes before storming home to a victory that put them on two points on the table. 

Spain are the other Group 3 side to count two points in their tally, after they began their campaign with a strong 30:21 win against Bosnia Herzegovina.

Now the EHF EURO 2016 silver medallists look for a second victory that would give them an early lead on the group table.

"We have the same desire that we do before going for all championships, and now the most important thing is to arrive on Saturday in Finland and win,” said Eduardo Gurbindo following Spain’s decisive win against Bosnia Herzegovina.

Though Finland will be backed by the confidence of Wednesday’s win, a victory over Spain would be even more sensational than that they managed against Austria. Finland have never beaten Spain in an official match, and the 2013 world champions experience will likely mean they claim the two points from this encounter.

GROUP 4
Czech Republic vs FYR Macedonia, Saturday 5 November, 14:25 local time, live on ehfTV

FYR Macedonia began their EHF EURO 2018 Qualification campaign with a clear 27:21 win against Ukraine, while Czech Republic lost a tight contest versus Iceland by only one goal (25:24).

Czech Republic can therefore already feel the pressure as Iceland and FYR Macedonia sit on two points each while they are left behind with Ukraine.

The hosts of Saturday’s match take to the court with bad memories of the EHF EURO 2016 Qualification, when they missed a place at the EHF EURO in Poland after finishing only two points behind none other than FYR Macedonia on the Group 6 table – a ranking decided when FYR Macedonia recorded a 32:28 victory that knocked Czech Republic out of contention.

The head-to-head history between these teams indicates that Saturday’s encounter should be closely matched, and fans in Plzen can also look forward to seeing the top scorer so far in the qualification phase in action – FYR Macedonia right back Kiril Lazarov, who tallies 12 goals after just one match.

GROUP 4
Ukraine vs Iceland, Saturday 5 November, 18:00 local time

While Ukraine were defeated by FYR Macedonia by six goals in their opening EHF EURO 2018 Qualification match (27:21), Iceland are already in a good position with a win against Czech Republic behind them.

The history between these teams is actually in favour of Ukraine, but as they have not met on court for almost 10 years it is difficult to take those results into account, particularly considering the current Iceland squad.

Left wing Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson was the Iceland’s top scorer against Czech Republic with six goals, and Veszprem’s Aron Palmarsson provided his usual world-class guidance from centre back and contributed four.

More significant than their head-to-head statistics is the fact that Ukraine are aiming for their first EHF EURO qualification since 2010, while Iceland have not missed a final tournament since 1998 and even won bronze at the event in 2010 when Ukraine ranked 16th.

GROUP 5
Switzerland vs Germany, Saturday 5 November, 17:45 local time

The EHF EURO 2016 champions began their campaign with the win expected of them, defeating Portugal 35:24.

As the 2016 Olympic Games bronze medallists and the European champions Germany are easily one of the favourites to claim a ticket to Croatia from this group, and even playing away they should be able to record a second win when they face Switzerland.

Germany and Switzerland have not faced each other on court in 20 years, and the hosts for Saturday’s match are chasing their first EHF EURO ticket since 2006.

“This will be a very different game. There will surely be a great atmosphere for the Swiss, but we are all looking forward to it,” says Matthias Musche, who was called up to join Germany’s qualification squad only a week prior to Saturday’s match against Switzerland, and subsequently top scored with six goals versus Portugal.

GROUP 6
Slovakia vs Sweden, Saturday 5 November, 18:00 local time

Slovakia enter the game after stunning Russia with a 31:31 draw in the first round of qualification matches, while Sweden beat Montenegro by 15 goals and therefore currently top the table as the only team in Group 6 with two points.

Slovakia’s performance away in Moscow indicates that Sweden cannot afford to underestimate them when they meet on court in Kosice. But considering their stronger track record in the EHF EURO – which includes four gold medals in the 1990s and early 2000s at the event – the Scandinavian side are nevertheless favourites against the team hoping to secure their first successful qualification since 2012.

Saturday’s fixture will be the second official match for the Scandinavian side’s new coach Kristjan Andresson.

“I'm very happy, I'm very pleased and the team shows energy. They work for each other,” said Andresson following the victory against Montenegro. “We were the better team today, but it's a new game on Saturday.”


TEXT: Courtney Gahan / ts
 
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