Serbia win top clash against Russia
All the favourite teams finished their openers in the EHF EURO 2014 qualification with victories. The top match between Serbia and Russia became a real thriller, with the happy-end for the host. Norway, Poland and Austria took home the clearest victories, winning by double-figure margins.
Looking ahead to Thursday's matches, Nikola Karabatic was surprisingly nominated as a late replacement for the French squad for the match on Thursday against Lithuania.
Fyr Macedonia vs. Switzerland 30:24 (17:9)
The Swiss team was weaker in all departments, while the Macedonians punished every mistake of their opponents by easy goals. The host’s defence stood like a wall, allowing Switzerland only nine goals in the first half.
When the Macedonian express was in full swing, they were unstoppable and had decided the one-sided encounter already at half-time, with the score being17:9. Fyr Macedonia scored from all positions, while the Swiss defence lacked the skills to stop them.
Though they clearly slowed down in the second half, the Macedonians were even more dominant – and kept the distance close to double-figures most of the time, even as coach Zvonko Shundovski gave playing time to his youngsters to save the energy of the key players.
Despite an improvement in defence, the Swiss team still had enormous problems in hitting the net against the highly movable Macedonian defence until the final eight minutes, when they were able to score a series of goals to reduce the final result to 24:30.
Top scorers were Stojanche Stoilov (MKD) with six and David Graubner (SUI) with five goals.
Thursday’s match of Round 1:
Spain vs. Portugal - 1 Nov, 12:30 hrs. local time in Seville
Switzerland vs. Spain - 4 Nov, 16:00 hrs. local time in Schaffhausen
Portugal vs. Fyr Macedonia - 4 Nov, 17:00 hrs. local time in Espinho
Czech Republic vs. Israel 27:22 (14:10)
Israel presented themselves much stronger than expected and caused real trouble to the favourite Czech team in the double debut of the new coaches Haber (CZE) and Djukic (ISR).And the Serbian coach on the Israeli bench had prepared his team perfectly – apart from a weak 1:6 start. But after a team time-out and as the Czechs underestimated their opponent, the gap decreased to only to 11:10 for the hosts, which then scored a triple-strike for the half-time result.
Who thought that the internationally much more experienced Czech players could take control easily after the break, was wrong. Israel fought like lions and were close until the score of 21:18 14 minutes before the end.
Then the Czech duo of Filip Jicha and Jiri Motl (both seven goals) started their engines and extended the margin to an uncatchable six goals at 27:21. Best scorer for the brave Israel team was Chen Pomeranz with six goals.
Thursday’s match of Round 1:
Germany vs. Montenegro - 1 Nov, 19:00 hrs. local time in Mannheim
Montenegro vs. Czech Republic - 4 Nov, 17:00 hrs local time in Bar
Israel vs. Germany - 4 Nov, 19:45 hrs local time in Rishon Le Zion
Norway vs. Turkey 41:23 (18:12)
Turkey were only able to keep the match open until the score of 8:6 in minute 15, then the hosts outclassed their opponent by six straight goals and extended the margin even to 17:8, before four straight goals stopped the Turkish downswing.
But Norway had decided the opener of group 3 already at the half-time result of 18:12, as Turkey's resistance appeared to be broken. When Magnus Jøndal scored his fourth goal, the gap was double-figured for the first time at 23:13, the biggest marging being 19 goals at the result of 41:22.
Top scorer of the match was Kristian Björnsen with ten goals ahead of Lars-Erik Björnsen and Kent Robin Tönnesen with five goals each. Best Turkish scorers were Tugberk Catkin and Dumus Mutlu with five goals each.
Thursday’s match of Round 1:
France vs. Lithuania - 1 Nov, 19:00 hrs local time in Rouen
Right after his club Montpellier MAHB had announced that Nikola Karabatic will be back on the court from the next match on following a judicial enquiry, French national coach Claude Onesta nominated the former world handball player of the year as a late replacement for the match against Lithuania on Thursday.
Onesta said: "I am not a judge, I am not a lawyer, I'm just doing my job as a coach. After Nikola's meeting with Montpellier's president this morning (Wednesday) and the decision to put him back in his club's squad, I sent him a convocation and alerted his club, which agreed with my decision."
This qualification match will be the first match of Nikola Karabatic since nearly a month and the league defeat of Montpellier against Paris.
Lithuania vs. Norway - 4 Nov, 16:15 hrs. local time in Kaunas
Turkey vs. France - 4 Nov, 19:00 hrs. local time in Mersin
Croatia vs. Slovakia 25:21 (13:8)
It was a perfect start in this tough group for the Olympic bronze medallists: After a tough match Croatia took the opening victory in this group – a match fully marked by two brilliant goalkeepers.
Slovakian keeper Richard Stochl saved 16 shots, on the other hand Mirko Alilovic had a tally of 14 saves after 60 minutes in Osijek.
The match was close, although Croatia were constantly in lead from the 5:5 onwards, but could not outclass their opponent. The Croats were boosted by eight goals of wing player Ivan Cupic – and seemed to be on the winner’s way right after the break (15:9), before Slovakia found their rhythm and scored four consecutive goals – everything was open again.
But the hosts, who had to replace injured top players like Ivano Balic or Blazenko Lackovic due to injuries, rose up again, extended the gap to 19:14 and had decided the encounter at the latest at 22:18 five minutes before the end. Best Slovakian scorer was Oliver Rabek with five goals.
Hungary vs. Latvia 32:25 (18:14)
After most of the Hungarian squad had been opponents on Sunday in the Veszprem vs. Szeged league duel, now they wore the same jersey and started successfully, though it was obvious that most of them were quite tired.
As his team did not start as well as expected, Hungarian coach Lajos Mocsai took an early time-out at 11:10 and replaced goalkeeper Tata by Roland Mikler – a measure which worked as the hosts extended the gap to four goals at the break.
But the Latvians did not give up, found the holes in the opponent’s defence, but constantly were behind by four or five goals in the second half. When their energy wore out, Hungary had a easy final 15 minutes to finish by a seven goal gap after an intermediate ten goal margin.
Gabor Csaszar (Hungary) and Dainis Kristopnas (Latvia) were the top scorers of their teams with six goals each on their final account.
Latvia vs. Croatia - 3 Nov, 19:05 hrs. local time in Dobele
Slovakia vs. Hungary - 4 Nov, 17:00 hrs. local time in Presov
Poland vs. Netherlands 33:22 (16:8)
Successful start for Michael Biegler’s campaign as Polish national coach. The German led his new team to an easily awarded victory against Netherlands in Plock.
The Poles – missing some experienced players who had resigned like former coach Bogdan Wenta - had no problems in forging ahead from the first minute with ease.
The Dutch team was anything but a hurdle for Slawomir Szmal and his compatriots. Already in the middle of the second half the goal margin between the teams was double-figured, the biggest gap being 13 goals at 25:12.
Only in the final stages, when the host lacked concentration as the result was obvious the Netherlands could get closer to the 2010 EHF EURO semi-finalist.
Top scorers were Michal Jurecki (5 goals for Poland) and Arjan Haenen (six for the Dutch team). Besides, the Polish defence was well organised by Mariusz Jurkiewicz (Atletico Madrid).
Thursday’s match of Round 1:
Sweden vs. Ukraine - 1 Nov, 19:15 hrs. local time in Lund
Netherlands vs. Sweden - 3 Nov, 19:30 hrs. local time in Almere
Ukraine vs. Poland - 4 Nov, 17:00 hrs. local time in Zaporozhye
Iceland vs. Belarus 36:28 (17:13)
Another successful debut of a new coach: Aron Kristjanson, successor of legendary Gudmundur Gudmundsson, led the Icelandic team to a clear victory against Belarus in their opener.
Match winners for the host were the THW Kiel players Aron Palmarsson and Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson, who scored eleven (!) goals each. Goalkeeper Aron Rafn Edvardsson saved ten shots.
Belarus were even in the first 20 minutes, before the Icelandic teams started their counter-attack series to be ahead by four goals at the break. The guests tried hard to reduce the gap, but after the first ten minutes in the second half, the Icelandic express finally started its engines and overran the Belarusians in Reykjavik.
Slovenia vs. Romania 34:26 (16:13)
Luka Zvizej and David Spilar crowned an easy-going evening with five goals each for the Slovenian team. Romania were close until the score being at 12:11 for the host, but then a time-out of Slovenian coach Boris Denic was like a wake-up call for his team.
By increasing the gap to five goals, they build the base for the half-time result of 16:13, and backed by overall 16 saves of goalkeeper Gorazd Skof Slovenia had decided the match at least at the score of 24:17 in the middle of the second half.
Best Romanian scorer was Valentin Ghionnea with five goals.
Belarus vs. Slovenia - 4 Nov, 14:00 hrs. local time in Minsk
Romania vs. Iceland - 4 Nov, 16:00 hrs. local time in Piatra Neamt
Austria vs. Bosnia Herzegovina 35:24 (18:7)
Austria are warmed-up for the decisive clash in Russia on Sunday: The team of coach Patrekur Johanesson defeated Bosnia-Herzegovina much clearer than expected.. Seven goals by Roland Schlinger and eleven saves of goalkeeper Nikola Marinovic paved the way to this opening success.
After being behind 3:9 in the starting period the Bosnians resigned very early and were outdistanced already at the break. Only at the beginning of the second half the guests showed some signs of life, reducing to 14:21, but then the Austrians re-took control and beat the Balkan team, which will host their neighbours Serbia on Sunday.
Serbia vs. Russia 30:29 (15:12)
The first half of the top clash was defence-orientated by both sides. The powerful Russians had built up a wall, as the Serbians could count on their combination of defenders and goalkeeper Darko Stanic.
So the first 20 minutes were absolutely poor in goals. For the first time Serbia marched away to a three goal distance at 11:8 after 23 minutes and kept this margin until the halftime buzzer.
But Russia turned the match around in the starting period of the second half – as Serbia could not break through the defence anymore. It took them ten minutes to score their second goal after a break, a penalty by Ivan Nikcevic to score for the 17:18 in minute 40. Without experienced players like Momir Ilic, Nikola Manojlovic or Dalibor Cutura Serbia had problems in finding their rhythm in attack.
Even a time-out of coach Veselin Vukovic could not stop the downswing, as Siarhei Gorbok brought the first three goal lead to the Russians at 20:17. But from that moment on the roller coaster changed its direction rapidly. Serbia was boosted again and scored a 5:1 series to advance the lead.
When Stanic saved a shot of Konstantin Igropoulo two minutes before the end, the deal seemed to be sealed at 29:27, but despite a one man disadvantage Dimitri Kovalev scored the 29:28 30 seconds before the end, but finally Zarko Sesum decided the game, netting for the 30:28.
Top scorers were Sesum (8) and Timur Diborv with nine goals for Russia.
Bosnia Herzegovina vs. Serbia - 4 Nov, 17:00 hrs local time in Sarajevo
Russia vs. Austria - 4 Nov, 17:00 hrs local time in Perm
TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts