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05.11.2016, 23:54
Top EHF Champions League coaches clash on international stage in Cluj
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ROUND PREVIEW: The electrifying duel between Xavi Pascual and Talant Dujshebaev takes centre stage in Sunday’s matches of the EHF EURO 2018 Qualification
 

Top EHF Champions League coaches clash on international stage in Cluj

18 teams clash in nine EHF EURO 2018 Qualification matches on Sunday, and one of the highlights is the duel of Xavi Pascual (Romania) and Talant Dujshebaev (Poland) in Group 2.

Other teams such as Austria, Portugal or Belarus are already under a certain pressure, while the Olympic finalists, Denmark and France, have lower hurdles ahead in their last official national team matches of the year 2016.

All matches can be followed on the EHF live ticker. Furthermore, the games Belgium vs France and Romania vs Poland are streamed live on ehfTV.

GROUP 1:
Netherlands vs Hungary, Sunday, 15:00 hrs. local time in 's-Hertogenbosch

After their relatively easy 24:16 win against Latvia, Hungary expect a tougher test in the Netherlands.

Though some big names are missing in the squad of new coach Xavier Sabate (parallel coach at Telekom Veszprém), the visitors can hope to keep a clean record after the second round.

The Dutch side kept their heads above water for 30 minutes in Denmark, and went on to lose 29:20 against the Olympic champions.

For coach Joop Fiege the home matches are crucial in this tough group to remain on the road to Croatia, but as defence specialist Mark Bult is ruled out by an injury, their hopes are quite limited.

GROUP 1
Latvia vs Denmark, Sunday, 17:10 hrs. local time in Valmiera

The favourite roles are clearly marked in Valmiera. Being new Olympic champions and two-time EHF EURO champions, the Danes are again expected to have a quite easy-going afternoon.

The Latvians lack the international class and experience when compared with the likes of Mikkel Hansen & Co.

Though some key players like Rasmus Lauge or Mads Mensah Larsen are missing, the visitors still have a unique squad. “Away matches are never that easy, but we aim to continue on our way,” said coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson after the 29:20 win in their opener against Netherlands.

GROUP 2:
Serbia vs Belarus, Sunday, 17:00 hrs. local time in Nis

Serbian confidence is huge, boosted by the unexpected clear 37:32 win in Poland on Thursday. On the other hand, Belarus already have their backs against the wall after the unexpected 26:23 home defeat against Romania.

If the Serbian back court star Petar Nenadic and upcoming right wing talent Darko Djukic conserve their form from the opener, the team of new head coach Jovica Cvetkovic will be the favourite.

Group 2
Romania vs Poland, Sunday, 20:00 hrs. local time in Cluj Napoca (live on ehfTV)

The duel of Xavi Pascual vs Talant Dujshebaev usually electrifies the fans in the VELUX EHF Champions League; now both clash for the first time at the helm of national teams.

And the starting points could not be more different: Pascual steered Romania to an away win at Belarus, while Dujshebaev’s Polish side sensationally lost at home to Serbia.

Thus, the Olympic semi-finallists are under a certain pressure - another defeat could cause big problems for the remaining matches. The handball temple in Cluj (Romania) will be boosted with a frenetic crowd hoping to upset another favoured team.

GROUP 3:
Bosnia-Herzegovina vs Austria, Sunday, 20:00 hrs. local time in Sarajevo

Which ever team loses this tie might well see their chances of progression to the next EHF EURO event squashed. While the Bosnian 30:21 defeat to the 2013 world champions Spain was expected, Austria let a lead slip from their hands by missing a huge amount of penalty shots against the underdogs from Finland and lost their home encounter 31:27.

“It is simple: we need to win in Bosnia,” says Austrian top talent Nikola Bilyk. In the previous years, both sides faced quite often, with different outcomes.

GROUP 5:
Portugal vs Slovenia, Sunday, 15:00 hrs. local time in Lisboa

Portugal were below par in their opening 35:24 defeat to defending EHF EURO champions Germany, while Slovenia had more problems than expected to leave Switzerland behind (32:27).

On home court, the Portuguese side of new head coach Paulo Pereira is expected to be stronger. “We have to show our true face against Slovenia,” the coach stated.

The Slovenian side, on the other hand, counts on a higher individual class with players such as Dean Bombac, Dragan Gajic or youngster Blaz Janc.

GROUP 6:
Montenegro vs Russia, Sunday, 18:00 hrs. local time in Bar

Both sides had hoped for a better start, but neither of them ended with full points. While Russia let a win slip from their hands in the dying seconds against Slovakia (31:31), Montenegro were run over by Sweden 36:21.

This is their first home match since the surprising resignation of coach, Ljubomir Obradovic, after an incident in Tuesday’s training session.

But when they are under pressure, the Montenegrins showed their best performances on home court, proved by eliminating Sweden (2013) and Germany (2014) in crucial matches.

Again, assistant coach Milorad Davidovic and team manager Petar Kapisoda will be at the helm of the hosts.

GROUP 7:
Belgium vs France, Sunday, 15:30 hrs. local time in Angleur-Liege (live on ehfTV)

A new spectator record for handball matches in Belgium is expected at Liege, as more than 4,000 tickets for the neighbouring tie have already been sold. The home team is the clear underdog against the three-time EHF EURO champions.

“We know Nikola Karabatic & Co. only from TV, now we have the chance of the lifetime to face them,” says Belgian top stars Damian Kedziora.

His side expectedly were defeated in Norway (35:26) and want to continue their learning process against the French side.

France easily cruised to 37:20 victory against Lithuania on Thursday in the first ever match of the new coaching duo Didier Dinart/Guillaume Gille.

GROUP 7:
Lithuania vs Norway, Sunday, 18:00 hrs. local time in Vilnius

After they were taught a lesson in France, Lithuania will need a perfect game to even have a chance against the EURO 2016 semi-finallists with players such as Bjarte Myrhol, Espen Lie Hansen or uprising talent Sander Sagosen.

Since 1998, the Lithuanians have not qualify for an EHF EURO final tournament, and if they want to remain in the race for 2018, they definitely need to win on home court. In qualification for the EHF EURO 2014, the Norwegian won both encounters against Lithuania (28:21, 34:29).


TEXT: Björn Pazen / bc / ts
 
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