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25.10.2018, 00:02
Historic win for Portugal; first-half scare for Denmark
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QUALIFICATION REVIEW 3: Portugal defeat Romania for the first time, Denmark beat Ukraine after a level first 30 minutes, and Slovenia and Iceland enjoy comfortable wins as day one of qualification matches concludes
 

Historic win for Portugal; first-half scare for Denmark

The last EHF EURO 2020 Qualification Phase 2 matches on Wednesday night saw Portugal, Denmark, Slovenia and Iceland collect their first two points with victories in their respective Round 1 encounters.

Portugal enjoyed an historic and clear win in Group 6, while Denmark overcame a tough first half against Ukraine in Group 8. In Group 4, Slovenia played a solid match and cruised past Latvia. The day concluded with Iceland beating Greece by a decisive margin.

GROUP 3

Iceland vs Greece 35:21 (17:13)

In an exclusive interview leading up to the first EHF EURO 2020 Qualification matches, Iceland coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson spoke about the great potential in his rebuilding squad and the need for them to gain experience in high-pressure competitive matches.

Iceland rose to exactly that occasion spectacularly in the final Round 1 clash on Wednesday night, allowing Greece to lead only at 1:0 before they claimed the upper hand and controlled the match.

By half-time, Iceland had created a five-goal advantage that set them well on the way to the two points, and through the second 30 minutes the hosts only continued to tighten their hold on the game.

Iceland’s defence was extremely effective, allowing Greece just eight goals to their 18 in the second half.

While they kept their opponents working hard to find scoring opportunities, the home side powered to the final whistle to finish with a 14-goal victory.

GROUP 4

Slovenia vs Latvia 27:21 (14:7)

Slovenia’s all-time record against Latvia has included only decisive victories, and that series was extended on Wednesday as the IHF Men’s World Championship 2017 bronze medallists delivered a solid performance on the path to a clear Round 1 win.

Supported by a great game from goalkeeper Klemen Ferlin in the first period, which included a double save off a penalty then the resulting rebound in the 20th minute, Slovenia’s defence was difficult to pass. In attack, the hosts made use of their speed, scoring all their attempted fast breaks in the first half as they created a seven-goal advantage by the break.

Slovenia coach Veselin Vujovic changed his goalkeeper to Urh Kastelic for the second half, and the hosts’ defence became ever tougher, but their attack suffered, and Latvia were able to temporarily decrease the deficit a little. However, Slovenia’s half-time lead was ultimately enough to lead them to the two points.

GROUP 6

Portugal vs Romania 21:13 (10:7)

Portugal recorded their first-ever victory over Romania in the opening Group 6 clash, earning an important two points that sets them on the path to reaching the final tournament.

Neither Portugal nor Romania have contested the EHF EURO for many years – for Portugal, the last time was in 2006; for Romania it was 1996.

In a group that includes world champions France, and Lithuania as the other opponents, it seems at least the second ticket will be the subject of a tight battle.

Therefore, the two points in this match were critical, and Portugal capitalised on the magic of playing at home to secure the historic win. The hosts wasted no time, turning a score of 1:1 into a 4:1 lead and maintaining that same advantage at half-time. Goalkeeper Alfredo Quintana was an important force, with 17 saves, and Portugal’s win was assured long before the final whistle.

GROUP 8

Denmark vs Ukraine 30:24 (12:12)

Denmark had a shock in their opening EURO 2020 Qualification match on Wednesday night. As the current Olympic champions and participants at every EHF EURO since 2000, the Scandinavian team were the clear favourites, but Ukraine proved more challenging than expected.

It was their trademarks that won them the game – with 15 minutes left on the clock Denmark had outscored Ukraine on fast breaks eight to one. Their defence, backed by goalkeeper Nicolas Landin Jacobsen, worked like clockwork and they were able to capitalise on every opportunity, and it was certainly a relief for the fans in Aarhus to see their team ahead 23:17 at that point.

The score was level through the first 30 minutes and at half-time, but Denmark coach Nikolaj Jacobsen clearly shared effective tactics – or at least a wake-up call – at the break. By the time the final 10 minutes began, Denmark’s troubles were long forgotten.


TEXT: Courtney Gahan/amc
 
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