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16.06.2017, 11:00
All to be decided in competitive groups
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PREVIEW: EHF EURO 2018 Qualification Round 5 wraps up with Hungary hoping to keep control of their own fate, while Romania, Belarus, FYR Macedonia and Ukraine battle for points in close groups
 

All to be decided in competitive groups

When Round 5 of EHF EURO 2018 Qualification finishes on Thursday, some teams will know their fate regarding the final tournament in Croatia – but many will have to wait for the last matches.

On Thursday in Group 1, Hungary can take a big step toward Croatia with a victory versus Latvia, and may even be able to celebrate booking a place depending on the results of the Denmark-Netherlands clash on Wednesday night.

In Groups 2 and 4 the situation is trickier, with Belarus hoping to hold their ground in Group 2 as they face Romania for the first time since their shock defeat against the same side in Round 1.

The match is streamed live on ehfTV and also on the EHF EURO Facebook Page.

In Group 4, all teams enter Round 5 level on four points, and everything is still to be decided.

GROUP 1
Latvia vs Hungary, Thursday 15 June, 19:35 local time

With zero points in their account after four straight losses, Latvia can no longer qualify for the final tournament in Croatia – but the pressure is on for Hungary as they aim to claim one of the two places still to be decided in the group.

Denmark lead Group 1 on seven points, while Hungary are second on five and the Netherlands tally four in third. None of the teams have clinched their berth for the EHF EURO 2018, but Denmark need only one more point to do so, while Hungary have a little more pressure.

If, as expected, 2016 Olympic champions Denmark beat the Netherlands on Wednesday evening, Hungary will book their passage to Croatia with a victory against Latvia.

If the Netherlands pull off an upset, Hungary will find themselves uncomfortably close to the third-ranked team when they take to the court for the head-to-head match on Sunday.

To keep control of their own fate, Hungary need two wins – and as they won the first encounters with Latvia and the Netherlands, two successful outcomes in the last rounds are a strong possibility.

GROUP 2
Romania vs Belarus, Thursday 15 June, 19:00 local time, live on ehfTV

Group 2 has been one of the most unexpected in EHF EURO 2018 Qualification, and Romania have been responsible for some of the biggest surprises.

After making their way to qualification 2 through qualification 1 and the play-offs, Romania entered this stage as outsiders. But the team led by new coach Xavi Pascual surprised their opponents with two wins in the first rounds – first 23:26 away against Belarus then 28:23 at home versus 2016 Olympic semi-finalists Poland.

In Rounds 3 and 4 they lost both legs of the double header against Serbia, thought the match at home was close with a final score of 22:23.

After the Round 1 loss to Romania, Belarus recovered to record two wins – first against Serbia then Poland – and one draw, putting them on five points in second as the last two rounds of qualification begin. Romania are third with four points and Serbia are first on six.

The two places in Croatia are therefore still to be decided, and the points from this clash will be crucial in the decision.

“It will be very hard to play in Romania. But last autumn, it was also difficult to play in Serbia, yet we managed to win. Every game is a new challenge, and we will try to do our best. We respect our opponents but we need points,” says Belarus coach Iuri Chevtsov.

GROUP 4
Ukraine vs FYR Macedonia, Thursday 15 June, 19:00 local time 

With four teams level on four points, Group 4’s race to the final tournament is the closest and will only be decided after the last qualification matches.

All victories in this group so far have been on home soil, but as FYR Macedonia won the first leg against Ukraine with a clear difference of 27:21, the odds ahead of the Round 5 clash seem to be in their favour.

“All national teams are in the same position and we have to adapt according to this situation. Ukraine have great shooters, but our job will be to play strong in defence,” says FYR Macedonia head coach Raul Gonzales, who recently steered HC Vardar to their first ever VELUX EHF Champions League title.

“We have to be focused and I hope that we will take two points in the first match against Ukraine, because our goal is to qualify for the final tournament in Croatia.”

FYR Macedonia’s Kiril Lazarov is the current top scorer of the competition with 40 goals so far in the qualification phase – an average of 10 per match.


TEXT: Courtney Gahan / ts
 
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