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06.05.2017, 19:42
Defending champions Germany and Sweden book spots in Croatia
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ROUND REVIEW 2: Germany defeat Slovenia and Sweden win against Russia to secure their places at the EHF EURO 2018, while France farewell Omeyer and Narcisse with a victory over Norway.
 

Defending champions Germany and Sweden book spots in Croatia

Germany are one step closer to defending their 2016 title after beating Slovenia by five goals in the second of their EHF EURO 2018 qualification clashes with the World Championship 2017 bronze medallists this week.

As they did on Wednesday in the first match in Ljubljana, Germany left little doubt as to who deserved the two points as they controlled the match from start to finish, and thereby booked their spot at the final tournament.

Sweden faced a tougher challenge than they did on Wednesday night against Russia, but finished with a four-goal victory that secured their ticket to Croatia.

In Group 7, France made amends for their loss against Norway, also on Wednesday, claiming a decisive win that ended the decorated international careers of former World Handball Players of the Year Daniel Narcisse and Thierry Omeyer on a high.

GROUP 5
Germany vs Slovenia 25:20 (14:10)

Germany booked their 12th EHF EURO appearance in style when they defeated Slovenia for the second time this week, recording a five-goal win in front of 9,300 fans in Halle.

“I am incredibly happy because we know how strong Slovenia are. It was a really great atmosphere in the hall,” said Germany back Paul Drux after the match. “In defence, we were good for 60 minutes today; in attack, we had some problems.”

It took Germany little over 15 minutes to build an advantage in what was Patrick Wiencek’s 100th international and Andreas Wolff’s 50th. Hendrik Pekeler took the score to 7:5 in the 17th minute, while Slovenia’s influential right back Jure Dolenec sat on the bench until the 25th – after which point he tallied four goals.

Though Germany shot with superb accuracy they missed opportunities to create scoring chances in attack, but with Wolff in incredible form the hosts had a safety net that kept Slovenia from making the most of turnovers.

By half-time Germany were in front by four goals, and therefore only had to keep Slovenia at bay during the second period.

Slovenia coach Veselin Vujovic found ways to combat some of Germany’s biggest strengths, as lethal left wing Uwe Gensheimer was kept to just one goal from three shots after tallying 11 in the first encounter on Wednesday night.

But Vujovic’s tactics were not enough as Germany coach Christian Prokop continued the positive start to his new role with almost his entire squad contributing goals to the win.

From the 40th to 45th minutes it looked as though Slovenia might stage a late comeback as they narrowed the score line to two goals more than once, but they could come no closer and Germany took firm control through the last quarter to finish with the clear victory.

GROUP 6
Sweden vs Russia 25:21 (10:11)

Russia hoped to make amends for their rocky qualification campaign when they took to the court in Linköping on Saturday, and their strong start to the match reflected that motivation.

The team recorded unexpected draws in their opening EHF EURO 2018 Qualification matches against Slovakia and Montenegro in November, then lost decisively to Sweden in their first encounter on Wednesday night in Saint Petersburg.

Russia coach Dimitri Torgovanov promised his injury-depleted side – missing Pavel Atman and Dmitry Zhitnikov along with VELUX EHF FINAL4 2017 participant Timur Dibirov, who is taking a break from the national team – had learned from their errors on Wednesday. And they used those lessons to take an early 3:0 advantage before Sweden joined them on the score board in the fifth minute.

But once Sweden were in the game Russia had difficulty keeping them at bay, and the home team levelled the score at 7:7 in the 17th minute with a goal from Mattias Zachrisson.

From that point the advantage changed hands more than once, and Russia held a one-goal lead at the break.

Sweden’s wings were their most dangerous weapon, as Zachrisson and Niclas Ekberg contributed a total of 13 goals between them in the match. Zachrisson and Ekberg were key in Sweden claiming the upper hand and creating a more substantial advantage, with Ekberg putting the Scandinavian side four goals in front just inside the last quarter of the match at 19:15.

That four-goal difference persisted through the final 15 minutes, and Russia were forced to settle for yet another disappointing result.

The victory moves Sweden up to eight points, which means they are safely through to the final tournament in Croatia, while Russia remain behind on two.

GROUP 7
France vs Norway 28:24 (13:10)

On the back of their first EHF EURO 2018 Qualification loss on Wednesday night, playing at home and armed with the knowledge that it was the final match in the national team for multiple world, Olympic and European champions Daniel Narcisse and Thierry Omeyer, France took to the court highly motivated.

As is becoming quite the pattern for encounters between these teams, Norway created an early advantage that left France chasing until they claimed the upper hand thanks to a goal from Narcisse in the 17th minute.

Following Narcisse’s goal France added two more off Ludovic Fabregas and Luc Abalo, and Norway suddenly found themselves struggling to catch their hosts.

The Scandinavian side could not close the gap before half-time, when France held a three-goal advantage – and with the three opening goals of the second period, the home team increased the distance to 16:10.

Omeyer had a great game between the posts, stopping what should have been easy opportunities for Norway and spending more time celebrating with the crowd than usual as he clearly aimed to enjoy his last match in Les Experts’ jersey.

The two points seemed all but decided when France led 20:14 as the last quarter of the match began. Norway kept fighting and came as close as three goals with just over two minutes left, but as the next goal came from Nikola Karabatic the match was decided.

Saturday’s win took France to six points on the table, while Norway stay on four.


TEXT: Courtney Gahan / jh
 
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