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World Championship

Ukraine and Iceland dominate as qualification phase 1 ends

Joanne Harris

Ukraine and Iceland took the final two places for the play-offs to the 2021 IHF Women's World Championship on Sunday.

They join the teams of Slovakia, Portugal, Turkey, North Macedonia, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Belarus which had already secured their play-off place earlier this weekend during the phase 1 qualification tournaments. 

Already qualified for the play-offs were the teams of Russia, Germany, Montenegro, Hungary, Sweden, Romania, Serbia, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovenia.

Among those 20 teams, 10 tickets to the Women's World Championship 2021 in Spain will be given away. 

The draw for the play-offs takes place on Monday 22 March at 15:00 CET in Vienna.

  • Ukraine progress after a decisive 31:24 victory against Israel to finish second in the group behind Slovakia
  • a strong first half from Iceland helped them to defeat Lithuania by 10 goals to take the last remaining place in the next round
  • Belarus and Switzerland, who had both already qualified for the next round, drew in an exciting match on Sunday that saw Charlotte Kähr net the equaliser in the final minute
  • North Macedonia produced a stunning comeback against Greece to win 20:19 after trailing 10:13 at half-time, with Sara Ristovska scoring 10 goals

Only two matches counted on the final day of qualification phase 1 for the 2021 World Championship: Ukraine against Israel in group 1, and Iceland versus Lithuania in group 2.

Ukraine made no mistakes in Luxembourg, stretching out to a 6:4 lead inside the first 10 minutes and to 16:10 by the end of the first half. They held on to the margin throughout the second half, extending to eight goals in the 49th and 59th minutes before Mor Shaul netted on the buzzer for Israel.

The 31:24 victory meant Ukraine progress behind Slovakia, who beat hosts Luxembourg 37:17 later.

A 7:0 run between the 10th and 18th minutes led by Tinna Björgvinsdóttir and Rut Jónsdóttir proved decisive for Iceland against Lithuania, helping them to a 19:9 lead at the break.

Lithuania were unable to close the gap in the second half, despite line player Rita Repeckaite scoring eight goals from eight attempts throughout the match, and Iceland won 33:23 to continue in the run for a World Championship berth.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article had mixed up the teams directly qualified to the World Championship and the teams qualified for the final qualification phase, the European play-offs. This has been corrected.

Directly qualified for the Women's World Championship 2021 are Spain as hosts, the Netherlands as defending champions as well as Norway, France, Croatia and Denmark as the four top-ranked nations at EHF EURO 2020. 

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