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18.06.2017, 23:10
Macedonians, Czechs and 'Vikings' celebrate tickets to Croatia
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ROUND REVIEW 3: The last EHF EURO 2018 decisions were made with home wins in Reykjavik and Skopje, while defeated Czech Republic finish second in Group 4.
 

Macedonians, Czechs and 'Vikings' celebrate tickets to Croatia

As expected, all three open spots for the EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia go to Group 4: Thanks to their clear home win against Czech Republic on Sunday night, FYR Macedonia top this most equal of all qualification groups with seven points – one point ahead of the Czechs and Iceland, who cheated the gallows thanks to a clear victory versus Ukraine.

As Czech Republic won the direct encounter against Iceland on aggregate goals, they finish second on the table, but the ‘Vikings’ took the 16th ticket to Croatia as the best third-ranked team.

To determine the best third-ranked nation only results against the two top teams are taken into account.

GROUP 4
Iceland vs Ukraine 34:26 (18:13)

In all potential situations, calculations and results, Iceland needed to win on home ground, as they started the sixth round with only four points in their account. The Vikings accomplished their mission, and could celebrate not only a win but also the EURO ticket as best third-ranked team.

Despite an early 9:5 lead, Iceland could not take full control of the match immediately, as Stanislav Zhukov steered Ukraine to the first levelled result at 10:10. This was a wake-up call for the hosts, who crowned their comeback with the last three goals of the first half to take a comfortable five-goal advantage to the locker rooms.  

After only five minutes of the second half, Ukraine coach Oleksandr Dudko had seen enough and called an early time-out when his side were down 14:21. But nothing changed – Ukraine were behind by at least five goals constantly without a chance to endanger the hosts.

Thus, they let go of a great base built through previous rounds and missed a place at the EURO, thanks to their draw against the Macedonians and a defeat in Iceland.

The top scorer for the hosts, who celebrate a small anniversary as they qualify for an EHF EURO final tournament for the 10th time, was their record national team player and record scorer Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson, with eight goals.

FYR Macedonia vs Czech Republic 33:20 (16:10)

FYR Macedonia’s two FC Barcelona stars secured their EURO ticket and the top spot in the ‘group of death’, as goalkeeper Borko Ristovski shut up his shop and Kiril Lazarov struck like a goal machine.

FYR Macedonia’s living handball legend finished with 11 goals in his tally, after counting nine at the break, and again ranks as top scorer of the qualification phase with a total of 59 goals.

But Ristovski, Lazarov and the Macedonians were not the only ones to celebrate, as – despite the defeat – the Czech Republic made it to Croatia as second ranked team. It was clear that head coach Daniel Kubes’ side knew the result from the parallel match in Reykjavik when the final whistle sounded in Skopje.

Thanks to Lazarov, the Macedonians forged ahead from 8:7 to the pre-decisive half-time score of 16:10, crowned with an in-flight goal from Lazarov.

Even though Lazarov did not score as many goals in the second half, FYR Macedonia’s dominance grew. The fifth ever EHF EURO ticket was not in doubt or danger for a single second in the fully-packed arena in Skopje.

When line player Zarko Peshevski netted for 25:15, the first double-figured score line had occurred after only 44 minutes. The hosts finished with a clear victory, while Czech Republic, who missed the EURO 2016 in Poland, celebrated their ninth EHF EURO ticket despite the defeat.


TEXT: Bjorn Pazen / cg
 
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