SUNDAY PREVIEW: The best-ranked third-placed team is still to be decided in Round 6 of the EHF EURO 2016 Qualification
One place remains in the race for Sweden
The final matches of the Women’s EHF EURO 2016 Qualification phase will be played on Sunday, with only one place at the final tournament left up for grabs ahead of the Round 6 games.
After Round 5 was played on Wednesday and Thursday, 15 of the 16 places at the final tournament were confirmed – but the best-ranked third-placed team is still to be determined.
The place will likely go to Slovenia, though that is dependent upon several factors that every handball event this year has taught us not to disregard.
The match Montenegro vs Slovenia is broadcast live on ehfTV.
Group 4: Croatia vs FYR Macedonia, 18:00 hrs time in Rijeka
Croatia travelled to Slovenia on Wednesday confident of a win that would secure their place at the final tournament – but after they led by two goals at half-time, the visitors finished with a one-goal defeat at 23:24.
The result upset the group standings as now both Croatia and Slovenia are on six points, while Montenegro lead the table with eight. However, following Russia’s away win in Portugal on Thursday night, it became clear that both Montenegro and Croatia had secured their tickets to Sweden 2016 – no matter the results of any games to come.
FYR Macedonia remain at the bottom of the table with zero points after recording only losses in the qualification phase. Their Round 2 match against Croatia, played in Skopje, ended with a 36:22 win for the visitors.
Current top scorer of the EHF EURO 2016 Qualification, Andrea Penezic, scored nine of her 45 goals in the phase in that match.
Group 4: Montenegro vs Slovenia, 20:00 hrs local time in Bijelo Polje (live on ehfTV)
Montenegro confirmed their place in Sweden with their Round 5 victory against FYR Macedonia on Thursday, and with the help of Russia’s away win against Portugal the same day.
They did so with key right back Katarina Bulatovic on the bench, but still won comfortably, with a final score of 27:21.
Now Montenegro look to finish the qualification phase strong, though chances are coach Dragan Adzic will again choose to rest some of his key players.
Slovenia on the other hand, have everything to fight for. With six points on the table, including two crucial points from their win against Croatia, they are almost – but not to 100 per cent yet – certain to finish as the best-ranked third-placed team, and could even surpass Montenegro if they beat them by a high-enough margin.
Group 5: Hungary vs Finland, 18:00 hrs local time in Erd
Hungary were one of the nine teams to confirm their place in Sweden on Wednesday, with a win in Round 5.
Hungary defeated Slovakia 32:23 playing away, and almost every player contributed goals to the effort. The only players that did not were the two goalkeepers, Eva Kiss and Kinga Janurik, and defensive specialist Klara Szekeres.
After qualifying for the EHF EURO 2016 Qualification one of the top-ranked teams of the six-nation first qualification phase, Finland have recorded only losses in the current stage of qualification.
They therefore sit at the bottom of the table with zero points, and will face a big challenge in playing Hungary at home on Sunday.
Group 6: Russia vs Turkey, 16:00 hrs local time in Krasnodar
Russia remain the only team, alongside France, to proceed through the EHF EURO 2016 Qualification leaving only wins in their wake.
They scraped a narrower win than expected in Round 5 on Thursday when they won against Portugal 25:22, after leading 13:6 at the break. But their record remains clean with the maximum 10 points, and they will look to continue that with a home victory on Sunday.
Turkey surprised Denmark playing at home in their Round 5 meeting on Wednesday. Only a late run of goals in the last five minutes finally secured a lead of more than one goal in a match that had been goal-for-goal through the both halves, and Denmark claimed the shaky two points that booked their ticket for Sweden.
Though Turkey have no chance of qualifying for the final tournament they will be hoping to surprise Russia in the same way, but they will miss the home advantage they held against Denmark.
Group 6: Denmark vs Portugal, 17:10 hrs local time in Aarhus
Denmark did their job securing their place in Sweden with a Round 5 win against Turkey on Wednesday, but had to wait for the results of Portugal versus Russia to confirm the spot.
Once Russia defeated Portugal, neither Portugal nor Turkey could pass the Scandinavian side on the table, even though Denmark only have six points in their account.
Sunday’s host team will be hoping to finish their qualification phase with a win, particularly in front of a home crowd, but Portugal could prove a significant challenge.
Denmark won 26:21 in the Round 2 fixture between the teams, but Portugal have since kept Russia to a three-goal final score line and defeated Turkey – the side that very nearly caused an upset against Denmark on Wednesday.
Group 7: Germany vs Iceland, 17:00 hrs local time in Stuttgart
Germany share the same qualification story as Denmark – they have won three matches, and clinched their berth in Sweden with a combination of a Round 5 victory and a win from group leaders France.
Germany were lucky to only have to wait until later the same night they beat Switzerland 25:23 for France to defeat Iceland 30:16, while Denmark had to wait until the day after their Round 5 game.
But just like Denmark, Germany are expected to finish their campaign with a win that will not necessarily be easy.
When Iceland hosted Germany in Round 2, Germany won 22:17, which indicates that Sunday’s match could be a fairly close one.
TEXT: Courtney Gahan / ts
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