Czech Republic and Slovenia set course to France
Czech Republic and Slovenia both have a good chance of reaching the World Championship 2017 in France next January after recording six-goal wins at home in the first leg of European qualification play-off matches on Saturday afternoon.
The Czechs defeated FYR Macedonia 28:22 before Slovenia beat Norway 24:18.
Men’s World Championship 2017 Qualification Europe – First-leg play-offs
Czech Republic vs FYR Macedonia 28:22 (14:10)
Czech Republic look to be on their way to France next January after the six-goal win they recorded in Zlin on Saturday, while the Macedonians are under obvious pressure ahead of the second leg in Skopje on Wednesday.
The Czechs were missing some key players including Filip Jicha and Pavel Horak, but this did not seem to disadvantage them much.
What they might have been missing in terms of shooting power in the attack, the home team compensated for in defence – while FYR Macedonia had considerable problems in attack for large parts of the match.
Those problems were further amplified by the stellar performance from Martin Galia, whose save rate in the Czech goal came close to 50 per cent.
After an equal first quarter of an hour, the Czechs took control and after a couple of two-goal leads, managed to create a four-goal advantage by half-time.
In the second period the home team were constantly leading by two to five goals, and went on to hold a comfortable seven-goal advantage at 27:20 with less than three minutes remaining.
Macedonian star Kiril Lazarov was the top scorer of the match, with eight goals from 16 attempts. Centre back Ondrej Zdrahala scored six out of nine shots for the hosts.
Slovenia vs Norway 24:18 (10:8)
Though both teams had players out with injury – Slovenia were missing right-handed back court players Klemen Cehte and Borut Mackovsek, and Norway were without right back Harald Reinkind – the Slovenians appeared to be better at compensating for the absences.
The home side’s strong game was largely due to an impressive performance from playmaker Dean Bombac, who guided the tactical and low-scoring first half, while a brilliant Torbjoern Bergerud in goal kept Norway in the match.
As the second half progressed however, the game belonged increasingly more to Slovenia, and it did not take the home team long to double their two-goal lead from break.
In the last minutes of the match, the home team increased their lead to six goals, which makes the task of qualification very difficult for the Norwegians in the return match in Stavanger on Wednesday.
“We knew it would be tough, but right now, I am unhappy with a lot of things,” Norway coach Christian Berge told the Norwegian Handball Federation website.
“We lost structure in our game and did not become direct enough.”
TEXT: Peter Bruun / cg