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World Championship

Romania on track for record extension; Switzerland on track for history

EHF / Courtney Gahan

Sweden, Romania, Slovenia, Serbia and Germany are all in a comfortable position after their first-leg Women’s World Championship 2021 qualification play-offs, as the five sides recorded commanding victories on Saturday and left their rivals with decisive deficits to overcome in the reverse fixtures.

Just one of Saturday’s first-leg encounters saw a close battle, with Czech Republic and Switzerland drawing 27:27 and leaving the second leg completely open.  

Serbia and Germany, both playing away, had narrower victories in comparison with other sides on Saturday — Serbia fought off a challenge from Slovakia to win 26:19 while Germany defeated Portugal 32:27.

Romania and Slovenia both took advantage of the home court, with Romania beating North Macedonia 33:22 and Slovenia defeating Iceland 24:14. Sweden took the clearest win of the first qualification play-off matches on Saturday, winning by 14 goals away against Ukraine.

Ukraine vs Sweden 14:28 (7:15)

  • Sweden took control and steadily increased the gap until the final whistle. The visitors first hit the 14-goal advantage they would finish the game with in the 43rd minute, 23:9
  • Sweden’s goalkeepers — Johanna Bundsen and Jessica Ryde — combined for a save rate of 52 per cent, with a total of 15 saves. Ukraine’s keepers — Mariia Gladun and Yelyzaveta Voronko — also made a combined 15 saves, but faced far more shots
  • in the absence of recently retired Isabelle Gullden, Carin Strömberg and Jamina Roberts had an important role in attack, with a combined seven assists between the two backs
  • after this opening leg in Kiev, the second leg will be played in Lund on Wednesday

Romania vs North Macedonia 33:22 (15:11)

  • North Macedonia kept within close range for the first 15 minutes before Romania began to pull away. The hosts created a lead as clear as eight goals before North Macedonia narrowed the gap again for half-time
  • North Macedonia could not hold on in the second half and by the 53rd minute, Romania had reached their first 10-goal advantage, 29:19
  • Romania were led by a huge 11-goal effort from star left back Cristina Neagu, while Sara Ristovska scored eight for North Macedonia
  • the reverse fixture will see North Macedonia aiming to overcome the 11-goal difference at home in Skopje on Wednesday. Should Romania hold on and qualify, they will keep their record as the only team globally to reach every World Championship in history

Slovenia vs Iceland 24:14 (13:7)

  • in the official debut of new coach Dragan Adzic, Slovenia created a commanding advantage in the first leg in Ljubljana
  • Iceland kept pace until the six-minute mark, when Slovenia took the upper hand and never looked back. With eight minutes remaining, Slovenia led by 12 goals, 23:11
  • Slovenia played without their leading star and Ana Gros, who was sidelined due to a minor knee injury in the DELO EHF Champions League quarter-finals. Instead of the usual Gros or Tjasa Stanko top scoring for the side, Elizabeth Omoregie led with nine goals
  • the second leg will take place on Wednesday in Hafnarfjordur

Slovakia vs Serbia 19:26 (10:11)

  • Serbia played a much stronger second period to secure a clear win in the end, but had trouble in the first 30 minutes
  • after Serbia either kept the score level or trailed behind Slovakia throughout most of the first half, the visitors snatched the lead right before the break courtesy of Tamara Radojevic
  • Slovakia equalised with the first goal of the second half, but after that, Serbia took the lead and steadily increased the distance
  • Serbia will aim to defend their seven-goal lead in the home leg in Belgrade on Wednesday

Czech Republic vs Switzerland 27:27 (12:14)

  • Switzerland had the lead through most of the match but endured a tense ending as they were behind for the first time with just 11 seconds left, before Xenia Hodel scored the equaliser to secure a draw
  • the first time Czech Republic drew level, after 2:2 in the fifth minute, was at 18:18 in the 40th. Although the score was level several times in the second half, the hosts took the lead only once — at 27:26 with the final whistle only seconds away
  • Czech Republic were without key players Iveta Koresova (maternity leave) and Lucie Satrapova (injured). Michaela Hrbkova was top scorer, with eight goals, in her 150th international match
  • Switzerland now have every chance to clinch their debut World Championship berth when they host the return leg in Gümligen on Tuesday

Portugal vs Germany 27:32 (10:17)

  • Portugal never had the upper hand in the home leg qualification match, with Germany scoring the opening goal and holding the lead through the entire 60 minutes
  • Portugal will consider the five-goal loss somewhat positive regarding the distance they must overcome in the second leg, as they trailed as clearly as 11:21 early in the second half
  • Germany saw six international debuts in the clash, including top scorer Johanna Stockschlader, with eight goals. On the other hand, Marlene Zapf’s sixth goal, for 29:24, took her to 200 scored for the national team
  • the teams will meet for the second leg on Tuesday in Hamm

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