QUALIFICATION REVIEW: Hosts Turkey won the group 4 qualification tournament for the 2021 Men’s World Championship, while Greece secured their second victory in group 2
Turkey proceed to next stage of 2021 World Championship qualification
The first of four winners of the first European qualification stage for the 2021 Men’s World Championship in Egypt are confirmed, after hosts Turkey won the group 4 tournament by way of two clear victories against Estonia and Belgium.
In group 2 – the only one of the stage to be decided through a home-and-away playing system – Greece took their second win, while Finland earned their first points on Sunday.
Like in their clear opener in Cyprus on Wednesday (31:18), Dimitrios Tziras was the top scorer for Greece on Sunday, leading them to be the only team in the group with the maximum of four points after two rounds. But the match against Israel was much closer – after 30 minutes and again at full-time, the host had an edge of just one goal, finally celebrating a 26:25 win.
Although Greece were ahead throughout almost the whole 60 minutes, they could not cast off the visiting side, who had beaten Finland 33:32 on Wednesday. After a 7:3 start for Greece, Israel managed to reduce the gap to 11:12 at the break.
Five minutes before time the deal seemed to be sealed with a 25:21 advantage for the hosts, but Israel scored four unanswered goals to level the score in minute 58 (25:25). It was Tziras who made his team and the 1,000 fans jump for joy with the final strike.
Also on Sunday, Finland were initially shocked by a strong start for Cyprus in Riihimäki (7:4, 14:10).
However, after the score of 13:15 against them at the break, it took Finland only 75 seconds to turn the match around, courtesy of three goals in a row. 19:19 was the last level result, before Finland netted a 9:0 series to decide the encounter.
Conceding just five goals after the break, Finland secured a double-figured score line, with the result at 30:20 at the final whistle. Nico Rönnberg (Finland) and Loucas Paraskeva (Cyprus) were the top scorers of the clash, with seven goals each.
With four points on the group table, Greece are ahead of both Israel and Finland, who each count two points in their account. Finland and Greece will meet in a double header in rounds 3 and 4 at the beginning of January, while Cyprus (still on zero points) will duel with Israel twice.
Turkey won both matches – 33:29 against Estonia and 33:24 versus Belgium – to book the group 4 ticket to the 2021 World Championship intermediate qualification stage in April 2020. While the opener of the tournament against Estonia was close, though Turkey were constantly ahead, the crucial duel versus Belgium was decided quite early.
Doruk Pehlivan was the hero for Turkey against Estonia on Friday in Eskisehir, netting 11 goals. The biggest gap before the break were four goals, but in the second half, Estonia – led by their experienced star Mait Patrail – came closer. Estonia threatened to level the game, at 26:28 in minute 54, before a 4:1 series for the hosts immediately after proved decisive.
As Belgium had beaten Estonia on Saturday 25:20, the last match of the tournament was a true final. In the end, the only Belgian advantage was at 1:0, then Turkey had full control of the match. The tournament hosts first forged ahead to 12:5, created a half-time lead of 17:11, then sealed the deal as early as minute 34, at 20:11.
Alp Eren Pektas, Halil Ibrahim Öztürk and Cemal Kütahya scored six time each for the hosts, while Belgian Brian Meulders was the top scorer of the match, with seven goals.
The two remaining tournaments, group 1 with Lithuania, Slovakia, Faroe Islands and hosts Luxembourg, and group 3 with hosts Italy, Romania, Kosovo and Georgia, will be staged in January, parallel to the first weekend of the Men’s EHF EURO 2020.
TEXT: Björn Pazen / cg
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