ROUND REVIEW: The first qualification phase for the IHF Men’s World Championship 2017 continues with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Latvia through.
Bosnia-Herzegovina and Latvia book play-off tickets
The first qualification phase for the IHF Men’s World Championship 2017 continued on Wednesday with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Latvia securing their places in the play-offs, while other groups ready themselves for crunch matches in the final round.
Bosnia-Herzegovina are on the right track to book a spot at what could be their second-ever IHF Men’s World Championship. The team secured their place in the play-offs with a two-goal win against Slovakia on Wednesday.
With nine points Bosnia-Herzegovina are now firmly on top of the Group 1 table, with Lithuania their nearest opponent on six. Even if the Balkan team lose their final qualification phase match on Sunday, they cannot be unseated from the number one rank.
Lithuania vs Kosovo 42:23 (21:11)
Even a 19-goal win cannot stem the disappointment for Lithuania, who can do nothing, even with one match in the first qualification phase remaining, to claim the group’s place in the play-offs.
Sitting three points behind Bosnia-Herzegovina on the table in second position, Lithuania are just out of reach no matter the outcome of their final Group 1 meeting against the frontrunners on Sunday.
The 60 minutes against Kosovo were all about the home side, as they cruised into the half-time break with a ten-goal advantage and continued the rampage through the second half. Three players for Lithuania scored seven goals in the match (Rolandas Bernatonis, Gerdas Barbarskas and Skirmantas Pleta).
Group 2 saw a much closer match than those in Group 1 on Wednesday, with the neck-and-neck meeting between Finland and Italy ending in just a one-point difference.
Neither team are in the position to qualify for the play-off round, as they currently sit third and fourth in the group well behind Austria and Romania, who they will face for their final qualification phase matches on the weekend. Finland will travel to Austria, while Italy will be hosted by Romania.
The match may have ended in a draw but it was only a favourable result for Latvia, who secured their place in the play-off round with the one point added to their tally.
Though Wednesday’s match showed a marked improvement for Greece, who lost 22:31 when they played the first-leg game against Latvia in November, it was too late to make a difference to the table ranking.
Turkey continued their unbeaten run through the first qualification phase, defeating a Filip Jicha-less Czech Republic on Wednesday to put themselves in a strong position ahead of the return meeting in Zlini on Saturday.
After the clear win for Turkey, Saturday’s second-leg game will now be the decider, determining Group 5’s play-off round representative. If Czech Republic win by four, the play-off ticket is theirs; anything less will put Turkey through.
The Netherlands turned around a one-goal deficit at half-time to record a strong, somewhat surprising, win against Switzerland in their first-leg encounter.
The teams will meet again on Sunday for the right to contest the play-off matches, with the ticket up for grabs – Switzerland can claim the play-off spot with a four-goal win, while a narrower score line or a Netherlands’ victory will send the Dutch through to the next round.
TEXT: Courtney Gahan
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