Final stages of the European qualification for the 2013 Women's World Championship Play-Offs start on Wednesday
Two tournaments and six group matches to decide the winners
It is showtime for all 15 nations involved in the European qualification for the 2013 Women’s World Championship Play-Offs.
After the Qualification Groups 3 and 4 have already started, as they are played in a home and away format, Groups 1 and 2 will be decided in tournaments to be played from Friday to Sunday (30 November to 2 December) in Slovakia and the Netherlands.
The winner of each group will go through to the Qualification Play-Offs, where they will join 12 of the 14 teams already qualified for the World Championship Play-Offs and participating from 4 December onwards at the EHF EURO in Serbia.
The top two teams from the EHF EURO 2012 will join Serbia as hosts and Norway as reigning champions, qualifying directly for the event.
Only the winner of each of the eight Play-Off matches in June 2013 will qualify for the World Championship which will take place from 7 to 22 December 2013 in Serbia.
The draw for the Play-Off duels will take place in Belgrade during the final day of the EHF EURO 2012 on 16 December.
In Group 1, played in the Slovakian city of Partizanske, Slovakia are not only the host, but also the favourite for the first position as they face Switzerland, Greece and Finland.
Should the Swiss team in the end rank first, the participation in the Play-Offs would mean a special gift to their new coach Jesper Holmris who will start his mission in March 2013. The Dane coached the British women's team at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Slovakia ranked third in the qualification for the EHF EURO 2012 behind Denmark and Croatia with four points on their account, while the Swiss team remained without any point in their qualification group.
Finland even missed this qualification after losing the knock-out match in the very first phase of the qualification against Great Britain.
Group 2 is expected to be a hot contest for the top spot as three European top teams face in Apeldoorn.
Host Netherlands have to play this qualification as their federation withdrew from hosting the EHF EURO 2012.
They will face 1999 World Championship bronze medallists, Austria, and Slovenia, several times a participant at EHF EURO events, making Finland the underdog in this group.
Austria and Slovenia already faced each other in the EHF EURO 2012 qualification group, when each team took one victory (29:28 for Slovenia at home and 29:26 for Austria at home).
However, both in the end ranked behind Sweden and Czech Republic, the teams that qualified for the championship Serbia.
In both groups the matches are played in a round-robin system with two games a day.
In Group 3 the decision for the group winner will most likely be made in the very last encounter when Belarus host Poland on Sunday, 2 December, in Mogilev.
The Polish team has won four from four matches and are two points ahead of Belarus.
Even more important: Poland won the first leg of those two contests 29:19. If, as expected, Poland and Belarus win their respective matches against Lithuania and Italy in Round 5 on Wednesday, Belarus need to beat Poland by more than ten goals to qualify for the Play-Offs.
Italy and Lithuania are already out of the race for the Play-Offs
Only two matches are still to be played in Group 4 in which only three teams compete – and still a final result is possible that sees all three teams finish with four points.
Wednesday's match between Portugal and Azerbaijan will already give a hint what kind of result Potugal (currently on 2 points) need on Sunday, " December, against Turkey (currently on 4 points).
If Portugal take minimum three points from those two encounters, they progress to the Play-Offs. If they only take two, the goal differences may need to decide.
TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
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