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26.09.2017, 09:32
'Must-see' matches of Round 1
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PREVIEW: Olympic champions, former EHF EURO champions and the current EURO silver medallists start their mission in the Women’s EHF EURO 2018 Qualification on Wednesday and Thursday.
 

'Must-see' matches of Round 1

14 matches take place on Wednesday and Thursday; 28 teams take to the court, and there are three firsts to be celebrated at the start of the Women’s EHF EURO 2018 Qualification.

Faroe Islands and Kosovo make their debut at this level and for the first time all matches will be streamed live on www.ehfTV.com.

If you don’t know, which to watch, ehf-euro.com previews five selected highlights for you.

GROUP 4
Romania vs Austria – Wednesday, 27 September, 19:00 hrs  

Coincidentally, Austria are coached by a Romanian-born, and Herbert Müller, who grew up in Timisoara, says: “We are the underdogs is this match, but we will fight hard.”

Austria have not qualified for a Women’s EHF EURO event since 2008, and the fact they were drawn to a group alongside World Championship 2015 bronze medallists Romania and Olympic champions Russia does not make things easier.

In Ramnicu Valcea, all eyes will be on Cristina Neagu, the undisputed leader of the rejuvenated Romanian team. It is Neagu’s first match for Romania since she returned home and joined CSM Bucuresti, while long-term internationals such as Paula Ungureanu have retired from the national team.

Both teams met in the play-offs to the World Championship 2017, with Romania winning both matches, 34:29 and 33:24.

Austria’s new team captain is Petra Blazek; she has succeeded the retired Kathrin Engel.

Russia vs Portugal – Thursday, 28 September, 19:30 hrs

Russia’s 39:19 win against Portugal in the EHF EURO 2016 Qualification was one of the biggest wins in that campaign.

And even though the return leg, 25:22 in favour of Russia, turned out to be much closer, the roles are clear for this duel.

Russia are the reigning Olympic champions; Portugal have not qualified for an EHF EURO since 2008.

Russia have not missed any EHF EURO, but despite winning gold medals at Olympic Games (2016) and World Championships (2001, 2005, 2007, 2009), they never made it to the top in Europe. Their best result remains a silver medal in 2006.

Coach Evgeny Trefilov nominated almost 30 players for the final preparation, with one notable absence.

Rio 2016 MVP Anna Vyakhireva is still in the process of recovery after several injuries, and Trefilov wants her to be fit for the World Championship 2017. 

GROUP 7
Netherlands vs Belarus – Wednesday, 27 September, 19:30 hrs

EHF EURO 2016 silver medallists Netherlands enter the qualification without Maura Visser, who recently announced her pregnancy, and the injured Lynn Knippenborg and Michelle Goos.

However, the squad still boasts starts like Nycke Groot, Tess Wester and Yvette Broch that they are the clear favourites for their first two matches against Belarus and Kosovo.

Belarus are not the luckiest side when it comes to qualification campaigns. Their last final tournament participation was in 2008.

En route to the Women’s EHF EUROs 2014 and 2016 the faced Norway and Romania. This time they are up against the Netherlands, Hungary and debutants Kosovo.   

The last direct encounter between the two was in 2006 when the Netherlands won the qualification play-offs for the EHF EURO 2006 on aggregate, 33:24, 23:27.

Also in Group 7
Hungary vs Kosovo – Wednesday, 27 September, 18:00 hrs

GROUP 5
Denmark vs Slovenia – Wednesday, 27 September, 21:00 hrs

Among the 14 duels of Round 1, this is the only between two teams, which had qualified for EHF EURO 2016 in Sweden.

However, there are only two direct encounters listed between the two to date. At the World Championship 1997 Denmark won 37:24; at the World Championship 2003 Slovenia had the upper hand, 29:21.

Denmark and Slovenia count on rejuvenated teams, with the Danes taking the qualification as the first preparatory step towards their major goal: a medal at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Denmark head coach Clavs Bruun Jörgensen had to slightly change his squad prior to the match: Kristina Kristiansen and Rikke Iversen will replace the injured Stine Bodholt and Louise Burgaard.

Also in Group 5
Czech Republic vs Iceland – Wednesday, 27 September, 20:10 hrs

GROUP 2
Montenegro vs Slovakia – Thursday, 28 September, 17:00 hrs

When Slovakia enjoyed their only EHF EURO participation in 2014, they met with Montenegro in the main round and lost 28:24 against the eventual semi-finalists.

However, times have changed since. Montenegro are facing a radical transition and the majority of former stars, with Milena Raicevic being a notable exception, have ended their career in the national team.

Talented players such as Djurdjina Jaukovic have taken on responsibility, but it would come to no surprise if Slovakia upset EHF EURO 2012 champions.

“We hope for at least one point from the first two qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland,” says Slovakia’s head coach Dusan Poloz.

Also in Group 2
Poland vs Italy – Wednesday, 27 September, 18:00 hrs

The remaining matches of Round 1

GROUP 1 - Wednesday, 27 September

Croatia vs Switzerland 18:00 hrs
Norway vs Ukraine 18:15 hrs

GROUP 3 - Thursday, 28 September

Serbia vs Faroe Islands 18:00 hrs
Sweden vs FYR Macedonia 18:30 hrs

GROUP 6 - Wednesday, 27 September


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
 
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