REVIEW: Czech Republic have finished the Women's World Championship 2015 Qualification Europe on top of their group table, booking their tickets to the play-offs, while Iceland recorded two important wins
Czech Republic through to World Championship Play-Offs
Iceland threatened Italy’s early play-off qualification hopes with their entry into the Women’s World Championship 2015 Qualification Europe – Phase One on Thursday, beating the home side convincingly (17:26).
Sunday’s win now puts Iceland firmly as group favourites and effectively ends Italy’s hopes of qualification. Iceland only need one point from their upcoming matches against FYR Macedonia to book their ticket to the next stage.
As expected in Group 4, Czech Republic have finished this qualification phase at the top of the table, recording convincing wins against Azerbaijan on Friday and Lithuania on Sunday.
Group 3: Iceland vs. Italy 27:21 (13:7)
Iceland proved they meant business when the whistle blew to start Sunday’s match in Reykjavik, scoring the first goal and never allowing their opponents to come close.
24-year-old centre back Karen Knutsdottir led the home side’s strong attack, topping Iceland’s scoreboard with 11 goals.
The hosts did have one weakness that helped their guests keep within range. Iceland gave away eight penalties, seven of which Italy scored, in comparison with Iceland’s one penalty goal.
Nevertheless, the home side were in control from start to finish. By half-time Iceland had almost doubled their guest’s score, and they did not slow down when play resumed after the half-time break.
Italy staged a brief comeback in the second half, inching closer to the home side up until the 50th minute. At this point Iceland scored several successive goals to secure their ultimate six-goal victory.
Iceland are now almost certain of qualification, needing to secure only one more point – which they can accomplish with just one draw – when they face Macedonia in two matches this Wednesday and Saturday. As Italy beat Macedonia, Iceland look likely to take more than just the one they need.
Group 4: Azerbaijan vs. Czech Republic 26:38 (16:15)
The first of Group 4’s high-scoring matches took place on Friday, when Azerbaijan hosted Czech Republic for the first match of their tournament in Olomouc. Czech Republic entered the tournament clear favourites to top the table and book Group 4’s spot to the play-offs.
Despite the wide final score line and the odds against Azerbaijan, it was not such a one-sided game. In the first half of the game the teams appeared quite evenly matched. Azerbaijan even took a one-goal lead into half-time.
When the match resumed, Czech returned much stronger.
Azerbaijan did not give in, challenging the tournament hosts in a physical match that led to six penalties in Czech’s favour and a red card for middle back Sabina Degtiareva.
Czech capitalised on Azerbaijan’s mistakes, racing ahead of their opponents to win the second period 23:10 – a significant turnaround from the first half.
Centre back Marina Tankaskaya was the top scorer from Azerbaijan with eight goals. Czech’s highest number of goals (seven) came from right back Michaela Hrbkova.
Group 4: Lithuania vs. Azerbaijan 35:29 (23:15)
After a tough match against Czech Republic on Friday, Azerbaijan faced Lithuania in another high-scoring match dominated by back-court players on Saturday.
In contrast with Friday’s match where Azerbaijan kept pace with Czech, the anticipated group winners, for the entire first half, Azerbaijan were allowed only 15 minutes before Lithuania took the lead.
By half-time Lithuania were ahead by eight goals, and looked sure to take the two points that would put them level with Czech Republic ahead of their meeting on Sunday.
Azerbaijan once again gave away a higher number of penalties than their host, gifting Lithuania five easy goals. On Saturday however, it was Lithuania’s Kamile Busaite that received a red card.
Despite the fact that Azerbaijan scored 29 goals, Lithuania looked to be in control from the beginning and finished the match taking a well-deserved two points with them.
Marina Tankaskaya once again proved valuable for Azerbaijan, with nine goals, whilst fellow middle back Ekaterina Peche tallied seven.
Audinga Kniubaite, Laima Bernataviciute and Diana Satkauskaite were dominant for Lithuania, scoring seven, eight and nine goals respectively.
Group 4: Czech Republic vs. Lithuania 33:27 (21:12)
Czech Republic sealed their expected position in the Women’s World Championship 2015 Play-offs with another decisive win on Sunday, this time against Lithuania.
Group 4 saw a series of high-scoring matches in the qualification phase tournament that took place from Friday to Sunday in Olomouc. The victor in each match recorded over 30 goals, with the loser also always in the high twenties.
In every match it was the back-court players responsible for most of the team’s goals, demonstrating the strength of each team’s set attack and a slight weakness in defence.
Czech had been taken by surprise in their match against Azerbaijan, when the visiting squad kept pace with the heavily-favoured hosts until half-time.
But Czech were prepared this time, and wasted no time in taking the lead. By midway through the first half, Czech had created a seven-goal lead (11:4), and by half time, they had almost doubled that score.
It was only in the last ten minutes of the match that Lithuania gave Czech any real scare, closing the score line slowly to come within four goals of the group leaders.
That was as close as they were allowed, however. Czech responded by scoring a few quick goals to secure the victory and their passage into the play-off stage of the Women’s World Championship 2015 Qualification Europe.
Czech Republic’s highest scorers for the match were backs Hana Kutlvasrova and Michaela Hrbkova, both with six goals. Laima Bernataviciute continued her impressive form for Lithuania with nine goals.
TEXT: Courtney Gahan / ts
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