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05.05.2017, 11:26
EHF EURO 2016 finalists aim to book places in Croatia
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ROUND PREVIEW 1: Germany and Spain can secure their places at the EHF EURO 2018 when qualification continues on Saturday, while Ukraine hope to add another two points against Czech Republic.
 

EHF EURO 2016 finalists aim to book places in Croatia

 

When the EHF EURO 2018 Qualification Phase continues on Saturday night, two teams hope for repeat performances of their victories on Wednesday while one aims to put on a stronger showing.

Both Germany and Ukraine recorded wins in the first of their respective double headers against Slovenia and Czech Republic, and now look to add another two points versus the same opponents – though Germany can look forward to a home advantage while Ukraine are playing away.

Spain host Austria for the second of their two meetings this week, and will certainly be hoping for a clearer result than the nail-biting one-goal win they claimed in the dying minutes on Wednesday.

GROUP 3
Spain vs Austria, Saturday 6 May, 20:00 local time

Ahead of the first clash of the Spain-Austria double header on Wednesday it appeared Spain were the heavy favourites to record two wins and book their place at the final tournament in Croatia on Saturday – but the EHF EURO 2016 silver medallists had to work hard for the 30:29 away victory.

Austria held a five-goal advantage in the second half, though in the end Spain’s experience won out as they claimed a narrow win and with it their third set of two points.

Spain coach Jordi Ribera chose to leave two long-time stalwarts off his list for the matches against Austria: EHF EURO 2016 MVP Raul Entrerrios and right wing Victor Tomas, and the squad also missed injured goalkeeper Gonzalo Perez de Vargas.

Ribera’s goal is to try new players and secure qualification for the EHF EURO 2018 as soon as possible, but Wednesday’s result shows that anything can happen on Saturday. If Spain win, they are qualified for Croatia.

While Spain count six points in their tally and lead the Group 3 table, Austria have two points from one victory against Bosnia-Herzegovina and two losses – a surprise against Finland in the opening qualification round, and Wednesday’s close defeat to Spain.

Austria are hoping to secure their third ever participation at an EHF EURO, after hosting the event in 2010 and qualifying for the first time in 2014.

GROUP 4
Czech Republic vs Ukraine, Saturday 6 May, 14:00 local time

Ukraine won the home leg of the double header against Czech Republic on Wednesday night in Sumy, and now travel to Zlin with the hope of adding another two points.

Ukraine coach Vitaly Andronov said ahead of the first match that his team aimed for home points as he believes Czech Republic are the strongest opponent in the group, and with the confidence of achieving that goal behind them Saturday’s visiting team will surely aim to keep the momentum rolling in their favour – but it will not be easy.

The 26:23 victory for Ukraine in the home clash was far from trouble free, as Czech Republic kept pace throughout the entire match and were only undone by a few weak periods that allowed their hosts to pull away.

Both teams rely on a few standouts, as Czech Republic’s attack was led by nine goals from Jakub Hrstka and six from Miroslav Jurka, while Ukraine’s most dangerous players were Artem Kozakevych (seven goals), Oleksandr Tilte and Stanislav Zhukov (both six goals).

GROUP 5
Germany vs Slovenia, Saturday 6 May, 16:10 local time

After Germany made a big statement with an unexpectedly clear 32:23 victory in Ljubljana, Slovenia can be expected to return stronger and more tactically prepared to face the flat defence employed by their guests on Wednesday night.

The double header between the EHF EURO 2016 champions and World Championship 2017 bronze medallists was expected to be a close clash, and Slovenia will surely be disappointed by the result at home – but it is far from over.

The question now becomes which coach will find the right tactics to beat their opponents. Coach Veselin Vujovic knows how to coax the best from his players, and there is no discounting Slovenia in this encounter despite the deficit in the first match.

Meanwhile on the Germany bench, coach Christian Prokop will be looking to continue his positive start to his new role after the incredible victory in his first official match at the helm.

"Our performance was top in all areas, and we have to repeat this on Saturday," said Prokop on the German Handball Federation’s website.

Germany can book their ticket to Croatia with a win in Halle on Saturday night as they currently count six points in their tally, while Slovenia are on three thanks to their opening victory against Switzerland and a draw with Portugal.

 


TEXT: Courtney Gahan / ts
 
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