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07.05.2017, 09:22
Poland face do-or-die game in Plock
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ROUND PREVIEW: Things are heating up in the EHF EURO 2018 Qualification with eight games being played on Sunday and several teams already feeling the pressure
 

Poland face do-or-die game in Plock

Will EHF EURO 2016 hosts and World Championship 2015 bronze medallists Poland will already get eliminated from the EHF EURO 2018 race?

Following three defeats in as many matches, the team is under huge pressure ahead of their Round 4 clash against Belarus. Eight matches will be played on Sunday and for some the 16 teams in action the dream to qualify for the EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia will come to an end.

GROUP 1
Netherlands vs. Latvia; Sunday 7 May, 14:00 hrs local time in Emmen

Following their 29:27 away win in Latvia mid-week, the Netherlands hope for two more points when the teams meet again on Sunday afternoon. The Netherlands are currently ranked second in Group 1 with two points.

“We have shown a strong performance against a physically stronger Latvian team, and I'm confident that we can continue this way. One key to success will be to stop their tall shooter Dainis Kristopans,” said head coach Joop Fiege - Kristopans scored eight times on Wednesday.

“Depending on the result of Denmark vs Hungary we are still in the race for the second position. This makes our re-match even more important,” added Fiege added.

Denmark vs. Hungary; Sunday 7 May, 20:30 hrs local time in Aarhus

After the thrilling end to the first leg on Wednesday which saw Anders Eggert levelling the match at 25:25 with a penalty on the buzzer, both sides have started with confidence in their preparations for the match in Aarhus.

“It was a tough fight. I was on fire right from the start of my mission,” said Danish coach Nikolaj Jacobsen about his debut on the Danish bench.

Both teams remain unbeaten and are on five points in Group 1. Should the Netherlands lose to Latvia, the winners of this game will already qualify for the EHF EURO 2018.

The statistics clearly speak in favour of the hosts. Denmark never lost any EHF EURO qualifier on home court. The only time they lost a point was a 19:19 against Croatia in October 1993.

GROUP 2
Poland vs. Belarus; Sunday 7 May, 19:00 hrs local time in Plock

Coach Talant Dujshebaev and his Polish team are under extreme pressure. The 32:23 defeat against Belarus on Thursday was the third consecutive defeat in the EHF EURO 2018 Qualification.

Poland are hence on zero points, while all other teams in this group already have four points. “We have to calm down first, then analyse - and we will never surrender, but stand strong and fight back,” says head coach Talant Dujshebaev.

“We were really poor in defence - this is the point where we have to improve,” says Dujshebaev .

He hopes that left back Karol Bielecki will be fit enough to play following his knee injury - another defeat could already be the end of all Polish hopes for the EHF EURO 2018.

Serbia vs. Romania; Sunday 7 May, 20:00 hrs local time in Kragujevac (live on ehfTV)

A last second goal by Petar Nenadic granting Serbia a 23:22 win in Romania widely opened the door to the EHF EURO for Serbia.

The EHF EURO 2012 silver medallists are on four points now; just like group opponents Romania and Belarus. If they win again on Sunday, they will have more than a foot in the door to Croatia 2018.

However, the Serbs have to be aware of Romania's strengths. Romania only had ten weak minutes in the first leg on Thursday and they were eventually very close to a draw.

“We were lucky in the end, but eventually we deserved to win. Now we have a great chance that we have to take,” Nenadic said after the close win on Thursday.

GROUP 3
Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. Finland; Sunday 7 May, 20:00 hrs local time in Gorazde
A home win is a must for Bosnia-Herzegovina if they want to remain in the race for Croatia.
However, the team is confident that it can also win the return leg after they beat Finland 32:27 away on Thursday.

“It was not easy for us to stand the heat in Finland, but now we want to keep the momentum for our match on home ground,” said goalkeeper Benjamin Buric.

GROUP 4
Iceland vs. Fyr Macedonia; Sunday 7 May, 19:45 hrs local time in Rejkjavik (live on ehfTV)

How to stop Kiril Lazarov? This is the main question for Iceland ahead of their match against FYR Macedonia.

Lazarov netted no less than eleven times on Thursday and was the key to the Macedonians' 30:25 win that saw the team topping Group 4 alongside Czech Republic and Ukraine with all teams on four points.

Iceland have two points and conceded already two defeats in three matches played to date.

In previous years, Iceland experienced ups and downs on home court when they played against teams from former Yugoslavia.

Two years ago they eventually qualified for the EHF EURO 2016 with a clear victory against Montenegro; just some weeks later a draw against Bosnia-Herzegovina was not enough to qualify for the World Championship 2015 in Qatar.

GROUP 5
Portugal vs. Switzerland; Sunday 7 May, 15:00 hrs local time in Loule

After their deserved 27:25 win in Switzerland, Portugal are the favourites again for the return leg.

“We committed too many mistakes to be on the same level as Portugal. This match proved that the way to the top is steep. But now we hope to pay back Portugal, even though we are not the favourites,” said Swiss coach Michael Suter before travelling to Loule.

On the other side, Portuguese coach Paulo Perreira tries to calm down any enthusiasts.

“The away match was only the first half. We have an excellent base now, but we need to prepare with full focus, otherwise we cannot win on Sunday.”

Group 7:
Lithuania vs. Belgium; Sunday, 7 May, 18:00 hrs local time in Vilnius ´

Following victories against Norway and Belgium, Lithuania currently have four points in Group 7 and are still full of hopes to qualify for the EHF EURO – and the Baltic side has its fate still in its hands.

Lithuania's 33:29 away win in Belgium on Thursday was a hard-earned one, but Belgium are arguably a bit weaker when it comes to away games.

“We hope for at least 3,000 fans to support us on Sunday, the team has deserved a full Siemens Arena,” says coach Arturas Juskenas.

Eight years ago - when more teams had been part of the qualification groups – Lithuania already recorded three wins in one qualification campaign; son Sunday they can level this record.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
 
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