Finland end long wait for win; Serbia overthrow Norway

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EHF / Courtney Gahan

Day two of round 3 of the EHF EURO 2024 Qualifiers opened with a series of top-of-the-table clashes and duels between teams looking for their first points.

Italy put their first points on the group 8 table with their home victory over Latvia to start the action, before Estonia, Finland, Slovenia and Serbia recorded wins. For Estonia, Finland and Italy, the victories represented their first of the qualifiers.



Serbia vs Norway 25:24 (12:14)

Novi Sad was treated to a superb match between the two leading sides in group 2, with the game played entirely on a level footing and the result decided in the final second. The score was always close, but it was almost entirely Norway with the lead until the last quarter of the game. In the 18th minute, the Scandinavian side reached their clearest advantage, at 10:6.

After only leading the game in the opening minutes, Serbia finally took the upper hand with 15 minutes left on the clock, 20:19, but Norway back Sander Sagosen answered and a nail-biting ending followed. With three minutes to go, the score stood at 23:23 in the electric atmosphere, with Dejan Milosavljev (13 saves overall) giving the crowd plenty to cheer about thanks to his crunch-time saves. But ultimately Uros Borzas was the hero, as he scored the match winner with one second to go.

Serbia now sit on top of group 2 with maximum points and have extended their record winning streak in the competition to five games. They also extended their exceptional home record in the EHF EURO Qualifiers, which has seen only one loss in 24 games.

Finland vs Slovakia 30:27 (11:13)

Although it was a close match from the start, the lead was with Slovakia almost all the way from the opening minutes to the early stages of the second half. Finland returned from the break stronger and immediately levelled the game, before taking the advantage for the first time at 16:15 in the 38th minute thanks to Max Granlund’s third goal of eight overall. From there it was essentially the opposite scenario from the first half, with Finland creating a clearer lead and holding it to the buzzer.

The win was not only Finland’s first in the qualifiers, but their first against Slovakia and their first in EHF EURO Qualifiers since November 2016. That November 2016 victory in Austria was Finland’s only one in the 26 qualifier games played prior to Thursday night’s clash.

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We have a young team and now we beat a maybe more experienced opponent. This showed that we can get results when we are able to play at our best.
Ola Lindgren
coach, Finland


Estonia vs Israel 30:28 (16:12)

A great showing from the trio of Karl Toom, Mihkel Löpp and Rasmus Ots — but especially Toom — led Estonia to their first victory in the EHF EURO 2024 Qualifiers. Toom and Löpp scored five apiece in the opening half, and Toom went on to reach a total of 11 goals. In goal, Ots saved seven shots in the first 30 minutes, as Estonia had little trouble maintaining the lead.

The score was never equal and the closest Israel could make it until the final stages, when Estonia took their feet off the gas a little, was two goals at 12:10 with five minutes remaining before half-time. Estonia’s lead stretched to as many as six goals in the second period.

Estonia now count two points in their account, while Israel have zero. It was Estonia’s first victory against Israel, although the teams met only once before, in 2015. With the win, Estonia avoided equalling their record losing run in the qualifiers, set between 2005 and 2008.

2023 03 09 EST ISR Helin Potter (13) X3
It is hard to be perfect the whole 60 minutes of a handball game, so of course there were areas where we can improve, but overall I'm happy that we could get the points today
Lars Thomas Sivertsson
Coach, Estonia


Montenegro vs Slovenia 29:32 (14:14)

A top-of-the-table clash, a regional derby and the debut for new Montenegro coach Vlado Šola — the match between Montenegro and Slovenia promised to deliver a thriller and did so. Montenegro had a stronger start and led comfortably before a comeback in the dying stages of the first half from Slovenia, powered by goalkeeper Urh Kastelic. Kastelic recorded a rate of 50 per cent, which enabled Slovenia to climb back from a deficit that had existed for the entire period. Montenegro’s clearest lead in the first half stood at five goals.

But as Kastelic’s saves dried up, so did Slovenia’s power — at least, at first. As the last quarter of the game began, Montenegro had reclaimed the advantage, 24:22, but Slovenia once again staged a comeback. In the final five minutes, Slovenia outscored Montenegro to turn the 27:27 game into a three-goal win and position themselves as the group 7 leaders.

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I think every player wants to play in this kind of atmosphere. We showed character and fight, luck was on our side. We had some free minutes, but in three days there is a new game and fight.
Domen Makuc


Italy vs Latvia 36:23 (15:10)

Italy collected their first points of the EHF EURO 2024 Qualifiers with ease, as they took the lead against Latvia from the start and never allowed their visitors to have the advantage. Latvia came within one goal a few times in the first half and levelled at 7:7 at the 20-minute mark, but they did not have the power to keep the game equal and Italy ran away to a five-goal half-time lead. With 15 minutes to go, Italy hit a 10-goal advantage, at 27:17, and the match was clearly decided.

A strong goalkeeping performance was critical for Italy. Domenico Ebner helped the home side take control, making nine saves at 47 per cent in the first 30 minutes before his rate slowed. Mate Volarevic followed with a rate of 50 per cent and six stops.

I would like to celebrate tonight because a +13 is a remarkable result and at an international level it is even more important because it allows us to arrive with great confidence in the second leg. I want to congratulate the players for having changed their mind after a first half in which they saw the defensive superiority and immediately wanted to end the game.
Ricardo Trillini
coach, Italy

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