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04.04.2019, 12:00
World champions Denmark soar above the rest
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POWER RANKING: With the Men’s EHF EURO 2020 Qualifiers resuming next week, let’s have a look at how the biggest teams compare to each other and which newcomers have made it into our latest top 10
 

The Men’s EHF EURO 2020 Qualifiers are back with Rounds 3 and 4 on 10-14 April. So it is time again to rank the top-10 teams which take to the court next week in an attempt to move closer to berths for the finals tournament in Austria, Norway and Sweden in January 2020.

Bearing in mind that defending EHF EURO champions Spain as well as co-hosts Norway and Sweden don’t play in the qualifiers, here is our latest power ranking:

10. Switzerland

With Andy Schmid in top form and with the help from Croatia, Switzerland can qualify for the EHF EURO for the first time. They took part once before, as hosts in 2006. Thanks to their sensational home win against Serbia and the Serbian draw against Belgium, the gate for Schmid & Co. is wide open. They proved their strong form by beating Germany in a recent test match.

9. Hungary

Hungary eliminated Slovenia on the way to the World Championship 2019, where the newly-formed team finished 10th. Ahead of the duels with Russia, Hungarian club teams are having European success: Veszprém and Szeged are through to the VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-finals and Tatabánya are among the last seven teams involved in the Men’s EHF Cup. The national team is in a state of transition but still has many experienced players forming the core.

8. Czech Republic

They failed to qualify for the World Championship 2019, but the sixth-ranked team of EHF EURO 2018 is on course to reach the EHF EURO 2020. Already on four points, they can take a huge step against Belarus. Czech Republic do not have the youngest squad but they have a lot of experience, which they will need for the upcoming double-header with Belarus.

7. Iceland

After a strong start, Iceland finished 11th at this year’s World Championship after having to replace their mastermind Aron Palmarsson. Now the iconic playmaker is back on track for the crucial duels with North Macedonia. Coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson is building a new team with many highly talented players from the junior team, who are on the verge to join European top clubs. Iceland are in with a chance to book an early ticket after beating Greece and Turkey in Rounds 1 and 2.

6. Portugal

They beaten Romania and Lithuania in the first rounds of the EURO 2020 Qualifiers, FC Porto have qualified for the EHF Cup Quarter-final as unbeaten group winners, and Sporting CP made it to the VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16 for the first time – the future looks bright for the Portuguese national team, though they have high hurdle France ahead. After many successes at younger age categories, the future for the men’s national team looks bright.

5. Slovenia

After missing the World Championship 2019 following defeat against Hungary, Slovenia had a perfect start in the EHF EURO Qualifiers by beating Estonia and Latvia. Though their upcoming opponents, the Netherlands, have improved, the team of coaching legend Veselin Vujovic and his new assistant Uros Zorman shall be strong enough to take the points. Most of the Slovenian national team players are signed by European top clubs, which lifts the level of the team.

4. Germany

They were close to their first World Championship medal since 2007, but a buzzer-beater of Nikola Karabatic in the bronze-medal match against France ended the hopes of the 2016 European champions. After a setback at the EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia, Germany are on the rise again. With almost all key players fit, they are the favourites in the double-header against Poland to book their 2020 ticket. There is currently no other national team with a stronger trio of line players - Jannik Kohlbacher, Hendrik Pekeler and Patrick Wiencek.

3. Croatia

Croatia are awaiting two highly anticipated derbies against Balkan neighbours Serbia. Two more victories could earn the Croatians an EHF EURO ticket, and virtually end Serbia’s hope to finish runners-up in the group. The rejuvenated Croatian team showed some great performances at the World Championship 2019 but were unlucky to miss the semi-finals. Integrating many rising stars will increase the level of coach Lino Cervar’s team.

2. France

France are in the middle of a transition as more and more players from the former golden generation step back from the national team. But the pool of highly skilled players, such as Melvyn Richardson, Nicolas Tournat or Ludovic Fabregas, is still huge. It provides France with a well-balanced team, which has already four points on their account prior to the clashes with Portugal in Rounds 3 and 4.

1. Denmark

Olympic champions, now world champions as well: which other team should top this power ranking? The team of Nikolaj Jacobsen leads qualifying Group 8 with four points. And their dominant performance at the World Championship makes them the top contenders for the EHF EURO trophy in 2020. At the moment, it all fits perfectly for Denmark.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ew
 
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