Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Sweden ease through play-offs
Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Sweden made no mistakes in the second leg of the play-offs Wednesday as they booked their tickets to the Women’s IHF World Championship 2021 in Spain.
All four teams started their decisive matches with a big lead from the first leg. But despite a 14-goal advantage from last week, Sweden still had to overcome a scare against Ukraine.
On the eve of their home match in Lund, several Swedish team players tested positive for Covid-19, prompting the federation to completely change the squad compared to last week: 14 replacements were hastily called up, including seven debutants.
Also, IF Hallby HK’s Jesper Östlund took over from head coach Tomas Axnér for this match.
In the end, the B-team lost the game to Ukraine by ‘just’ four goals (26:22) and Sweden still comfortably qualified for Spain 2021 with a 50:40 aggregate win.
Earlier, Romania (35:20 vs North Macedonia) and Serbia (32:25 vs Slovakia) had straight-forward wins, like in the first leg, while Slovenia were pushed all the way by Iceland in an entertaining 21:21 draw.
QUALIFICATION PLAY-OFFS, SECOND LEG
North Macedonia vs Romania 20:35 (10:18)
First leg: 22:33; Romania win 68:42 on aggregate
- the hosts went 3:1 up within four minutes, but an upset was never on the cards as Romania replied with a 7:2 run and stayed ahead throughout the match
- Laura Moisa scored eight for Romania, Elena Gjorgjijevska six for North Macedonia
- Cristina Neagu only played in the first half and scored twice, with media reporting the Romania star will resign from national team duties until the World Championship
- having qualified again, Romania remain the only team globally to have played at every single World Championship so far
Serbia vs Slovakia 32:25 (13:12)
First leg: 26:19; Serbia win 58:44 on aggregate
- trying to make up a seven-goal deficit, Slovakia took a 6:5 lead after 13 minutes but would not be in the lead again for the rest of the match
- Serbia still led by only one goal after 36 minutes (16:15) before running away from Slovakia with a 6:0 run in the next six minutes
- just like in the first leg, the 2013 silver medallists won by a difference of seven goals
- Dragana Cvijic and Katarina Krpez-Slezak were the hosts’ best scorers with seven each, while Barbora Lancz netted six times for Slovakia
Sweden vs Ukraine 22:26 (9:14)
First leg: 28:14; Sweden win 50:40 on aggregate
- having to replace their entire squad the day before the match, Sweden competed with a team of mainly young and inexperienced players
- the score was still balanced after nine minutes (4:4) before Ukraine started to get their grip on the match
- when Ukraine led by six in under 18 minutes (11:5), it looked not impossible for them to make up the 14-goal deficit from the first leg
- but the hosts did well to reduce the gap as Höör’s Isabelle Andersson scored six times in only her third match for Sweden, while Lesia Smolinh led for Ukraine, also with six
Iceland vs Slovenia 21:21 (8:9)
First leg: 14:24; Slovenia win 45:35 on aggregate
- just like the first leg, Wednesday night's clash was a low scoring but entertaining affair
- although there was little chance of cutting down the 10-goal deficit, Iceland approached it as a new test and made Slovenia sweat in a game riddled with turnovers
- with Ana Gros not in the squad and Elizabeth Omoregie out of form in front of goal, Tjasa Stanko led the scoring for Slovenia with seven goals, ensuring new coach Dragan Adzic began his reign on a positive note
- Ragnheiður Juliusdottir scored a penalty with the final throw of the game, her fifth goal of the night, to leave both sides celebrating; Slovenia on their progression to the World Championship and Iceland with a strong result to build upon