ROUND PREVIEW: Round 1 of the Qualification Europe for the World Championship 2015 in Qatar throws off on 30 November. EHF live ticker available for all matches
20 teams have all just one goal in sight
The race for the World Championship 2015 in Qatar starts on Wednesday for 20 teams from across Europe.
Having to go through the hardship of two qualification phases, it means that the teams in question first have to win their respective qualification group and then beat one of the already seeded teams - either an EHF EURO 2014 participant or Germany - in the European play-offs in June 2014, if they want to make it to the final tournament.
The following Rounds 3 to 6 will be played at the beginning of January 2014.
No invicible teams in Group 1
If the EHF EURO 2014 Qualification is anything to go by, Turkey and Lithuania are the favourites for the top spot in Group 1. The dark horse in this group are Finland
Turkey and Lithuania had been drawn to Group 3 in the second qualification phase for the EHF EURO 2014. Turkey beat Lithuania 27:26 on home court but lost the rematch 23:28.
Finland did not make past the first qualification phase for the EHF EURO 2014 but recently showed strong improvement by leaving behind Luxembourg and Cyprus in the first qualification phase for the EHF EURO 2016, thus qualifying for the play-offs which are scheduled ahead the second qualification phase.
Lithuania face Georgia, while Finland play against Turkey. "We are not the favourites in this group, but we do have the possibility to win every match, however. None of the other teams is invincible," says Finnish head coach Mikael Källman.
Slovakia and Romania to fight for the top spot in Group 2
The first showdown in Group 2 will come in Round 2 on 3 November when Romania play Slovakia. In the first round Slovakia play Cyprus and Romania face Italy and neither of these two experienced squads should have major problems overcoming their respective opponents.
Slovakia even beat Hungary in the EHF EURO 2014 Qualification but eventually finished third in their qualification group.
In the qualification for the World Championship 2013 Romania only narrowly did not make it to the play-offs as Belarus ousted them in the direct encounter.
Slovenia want to go all the way again
Luxembourg against Ukraine and Slovenia against Switzerland are the encounters for the first round in Group 3.
This is arguably one of the strongest groups with Slovenia, Switzerland and Ukraine all having been part of the EHF EURO 2014 Qualification.
Slovenia even finished fourth at the World Championship 2013 in Spain and had the chance to qualify for the EHF EURO 2014 until the last round in which they lost against Belarus.
Netherlands are ready for more
Netherlands are eager to make their first step towards the European play-offs by beating Greece on Wednesday night.
In the first round's second encounter Belgium play Israel.
"You have to think that you are able to beat all three opponents," says Dutch player Samir Benghanem who celebrates his debut in the national team against Greece.
"That's the approach we have for every match. At the same time we must not make the error to underestimate anyone.
"We have shown that we are a good team at home and I think that our combination of young and experienced players is good enough to spring a surprise. And if doesn't work I consider this a learning process and an investment in the future."
Portugal aiming to get it right
Portugal, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia and Latvia make up Group 5.
Portugal almost made it to the EHF EURO 2014, but they lost the decisive match against FYR Macedonia.
Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Latvia were also part of the second qualification phase for the final tournament in Denmark.
"There are no easy games in this qualification phase," says Portugal's Ricardo Moreira ahead of the match against Latvia on Wednesday.
"They are all tough opponents that have players playing in the important European leagues.
"We know how important it it that everything falls into place. If we win against Latvia, then we will strive to continue this way and ensure qualification for the play-offs."
In the second match of Round 1 Estonia play hosts to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
TEXT: EHF / ts
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