PREVIEW: Nine matches for all or nothing on Saturday and Sunday will decide about the European participants at the final tournament in Qatar in January
Crunch time at World Championship 2015 Play-offs
Just 60 minutes separate nine lucky teams from participation at the World Championship 2015 in Qatar, but for all 18 teams vying for the remaining spots these 60 minutes on either Saturday or Sunday are more likely to become a tough ride than an easy passage.
Czech Republic are the first to take to the court when they meet Serbia in Brno at 13:50 hrs local time on Saturday.
Their task is arguably one of the toughest ones, as they lost the first leg 15:23 last weekend and therefore have to win by at least nine goals if they still want to advance. Czech Republic and Serbia had already met in the play-offs for the World Championship 2011 – back then the Czech team bowed out following a 23:27 defeat and a 25:22 win.
Russia are looking at an equally comfortable lead as Serbia do ahead of their second play-off against Lithuania on Saturday.
Russia won the first leg 30:22, and it looks like an Herculean task for Lithuania to catch up with this deficit.
In the two remaining play-offs on Saturday nothing is decided yet. Germany meet Poland after having lost 24:25 last weekend. The team is expected to give everything it has in order to avoid missing out on the second major international tournament after failing to qualify for the EHF EURO 2014.
Another intense match can be expected between Norway and Austria in Bergen after Austria took home a 28:26 victory in the first leg.
Five more play-offs on Sunday
No more than three goals maximum separate the teams in the five matches that will be played on Sunday.
Sweden, Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Montenegro won their matches by the smallest possible margin.
Sweden recorded a 25:24 victory against Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina beat Iceland 33:32 and Montenegro bested Belarus 28:27.
Of the three victorious teams Sweden are the only ones who enjoy home advantage this weekend.
FYR Macedonia also play at home after two late goals by Kiril Lazarov granted them a 27:25 victory against neighbouring Greece last weekend, while Hungary have to travel to Ljubljana following their 25:22 victory against Slovenia last weekend.
The World Championship 2015 in Qatar will take place with 24 nations from 15 January to 1 February 2015.
From Europe Spain as defending champions, France as EHF EURO 2014 champions as well as Denmark and Croatia, the teams ranked second and fourth at the EHF EURO 2014, are already qualified.
TEXT: EHF / ts
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