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06.11.2016, 19:13
Belgium, Netherlands concede heart-breaking defeats in EHF EURO Qualification
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ROUND REVIEW 1: Belgium and the Netherlands were close to spring the biggest surprise in Sunday's EHF EURO 2018 qualifiers, but eventually both were left empty handed, as they went down to France and Hungary respectively
 

Belgium, Netherlands concede heart-breaking defeats in EHF EURO Qualification

There was one minute missing in each game and Belgium and the Netherlands would have been among the happiest handball nations on Sunday. However, the truth in the EHF EURO 2018 Qualification is different and cruel.

First the Netherlands let a six-goal advantage slip from their hands in their qualifier against Hungary, then Belgium lost to Olympic finalists France despite being in the lead for 59 minutes.

On other courts, Olympic champions Denmark took their second clear win, while Slovenia levelled their game against Portugal only with the final buzzer.

Group 1:
Netherlands vs. Hungary 27:28 (17:13)

Despite a strong performance for more than 50 minutes, Netherlands lost their second EHF EURO 2018 qualifier, letting an intermediate six-goal lead slip from their hands against Hungary, who now have the optimum of four points on their account.

Following a start on eye level that saw goals being scored equally on both ends of the court, the hosts took their first lead at 13:12 and stayed on top of the game until the 57th minute.

Hungary faced enormous troubles problems to score, and in particular playmaker Mate Lekai missed a huge number of shots.

Netherlands scored six consecutive goals, and at 19:13 they looked to be on the path to victory - but from the middle of the second half onwards Hungary stroke back, as the team of head coach Xavier Sabate strengthened their defence and increased their efficiency in front of the goal.

Led by a strong performance of wing player Tamas Ivanscik, (Hungary's top scorer with six goals from six attempts), Hungary levelled the result at 25:25 thanks to a 8:2 series after having trailing 17:23 in the 44th minute.

When Lucas Steins scored for the 26:25, his ninth goal in the game, it was the last Dutch lead in a thrilling final minutes.

Lekai’s double strike was the key to the second Hungarian win, and when Steins missed with his last attempt 15 seconds before the end, the deal was sealed for Hungary.

Group 1:
Latvia vs. Denmark 23:36 (11:18)

Two Lasses paved the way to a clear Danish away win against Latvia: Lasse Svan (seven goals in the first half) and Lasse Andersson (5) had scored 66 per cent of all Danish goals before the break, and Denmark went to the locker rooms with a comfortable 18:11 lead.

After the break, coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson started a huge rotation and gave playing time to some of his young guns. One of them, Vest Kirkelokke, scored for the first double-figured lead at 25:15.

At that stage there were 20 minutes left on the clock and for the remainder of the game Denmark cruised to a never-threatened 36:23 win.

Latvia still wait for their first points after conceding defeats against Hungary and Denmark. They sit jointly at the bottom of Group 1 with the Netherlands – their next qualification opponents in May 2017 when Rounds 3 and 4 are being played.

Group 5:
Portugal vs. Slovenia 26:26 (9:11)

A penalty goal by Gasper Marguc with the final buzzer saved Slovenia from a defeat against Portugal.

His goal four seconds before the end marked the 26:26 and saw Slovenia remaining unbeaten in the EHF EURO 2018 Qualification. The Olympic quarter-finalists now have three points on their account, one less than EHF EURO 2016 champions Germany who top Group 5 with four points.

Portugal had clearly recovered from their 24:35 defeat against Germany on Wednesday, while Slovenia were under pressure once again, just like in their 31:27 mid-week against Switzerland – but this time the team of head coach Veselin Vujovic did not leave the court victorious.

Following a start on eye level, Slovenia took the lead at 9:8 – but Portugal gave all they had to remain in the game.

Slovenia counted on their strong defence, but they were not able establish a considerable gap between themselves and Portugal.

When line player Blaz Blagotinsek scored for the 24:21 with only six minutes left to play, Slovenia seemed to be on the way to victory, but Portugal struck back.

First Gilberto Duarte and Tiago Rocha narrowd the gap to 23:24, then Antonio Rodrigues and Nuno Pereira brought Portugal in front at 25:24.

50 seconds before the end, at 26:25, Portuguese coach Paulo Pereira took his timeout, but Rodrigues failed to convert the attack.

In their last attack Slovenia tried everything, forced Fabio Antunes to commit a foul which was subsequently punished with a red card and a penalty awarded to Slovenia – and Gasper Marguc remained cold as ice from the seven-metre line and equalised.

Group 7:
Belgium vs. France 37:38 (19:17)
 
More than 4,000 spectators (a Belgian record attendance for a handball match) did not believe their eyes– the game they saw was much more all Belgian players and fans expected.
Until the dying minutes of the game, the hosts hoped for one of the biggest sensations in this EHF EURO Qualification, but eventually one French goal at the very end sealed the deal for the Olympic silver medallists.

The home side dominated the match against the three-time EHF EURO champions for more than 55 minutes. After their clear defeat against Norway mid-week (35:26), Belgium put all they had into this match – and benefitted from a disappointing French attack performance.

Belgium were constantly in the lead in the first half – and France were lucky that the half-time result “only” stood at 19:17 for the host, who had missed their chance to increase to the lead to 20:16 with their last attack and then conceded a buzzer-beater goal by Luc Abalo.

Whothought that the hosts would lack power in the second half, was proven completely wrong. The match was on the edge until the end.

First Belgium took a three goal lead at 25:22, then France constantly levelled the result – but did not create a lead.

The Red Wolves played a great match against the huge favourites. 50 seconds before the end, the score stood at 37:37. Then FC Barcelona Lassa left back Timothy N’Guessan shattered all Belgian hopes with the game's final goal.

France have now four points on their account, Belgium remain on zero. Top scorers were Kentin Mahe with eleven for the winners and Damian Kedziora with eight for Belgium.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
 
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