The wait to discover the Women’s EHF EURO 2020 groups is almost over. Ahead of Thursday’s draw, we focus today on the eight teams in Pots 1 and 2, featuring a number of the world’s top sides, who have enjoyed mixed fortunes since EHF EURO 2018.
Below is a breakdown of who they could end up facing and which opponents would offer the most interesting storylines ahead of the draw event on Thursday 18 June at 11:00 hrs at the EHF Office in Vienna. The draw will be streamed live on the EHF EURO YouTube channel and the EHF EURO Facebook page.
POT 2: Norway, Sweden, Hungary, Denmark
Seven-time champions Norway will begin their home campaign in Trondheim and there is a 66 per cent chance of them facing a reigning major champion in group D in the form of Olympic champions Russia or EHF EURO 2018 winners France. Despite losing to them two years ago, Norway are likely to prefer drawing Romania from Pot 1.
The Håndballjentene may be handed an early opportunity to avenge their shock World Championship semi-final loss to Spain in the preliminary round as they sit in Pot 3 alongside Montenegro, who beat them in the 2012 final.
With just a short ferry ride required from Gothenburg to Frederikshavn in Denmark, Sweden will adopt the role as home team for group B. Star player Bella Gulldén is certain to relish the opportunity to face many familiar faces, should they draw France or Romania from Pot 1.
Former coach Per Johansson and his current side Montenegro dashed Sweden’s dreams at last year’s World Championship and there is a 25 per cent chance of a rematch in the preliminary round.
Hungary’s promising young team will be in a process of transition with a new coach at the helm, but they will be handed no favours with world champions the Netherlands guaranteed opponents.
Narrow losses to Spain and Montenegro helped them crash out of Japan 2019 at the first hurdle and are potential foes from Pot 3, while there is a 50 per cent chance of a derby against neighbours Slovenia or Croatia in Pot 4.
Co-hosts Denmark dumped France out of last year’s World Championship and will have no fear against them at home should they be paired in the preliminary round.
Serbia and neighbours Germany spoiled their hopes of reaching the semi-finals of the past two championships and a measure of revenge could be gained if one of these Pot 3 teams are placed into group A.
POT 1: France, Russia, Netherlands, Romania
Reigning champions France top Pot 1, but there is a 66 per cent chance they will go into the preliminary round as second favourites against one of the hosts, Norway or Denmark, in Pot 2.
There is a 50 per cent chance they will have a derby to look forward to as neighbours Spain and Germany sit in Pot 3, while the majority of the squad will be all too aware of the threat Ana Gros possesses, should they draw Slovenia in Pot 4.
Olympic champions and 2018 silver medallists Russia will fancy their chances against whichever Scandinavian rival they are paired with from Pot 2, having defeated each of them with relative ease in their most recent encounters.
Pot 3 features Montenegro and Serbia, who gave Russia tough tests in recent championships and could face them in December’s opening round, as are the ever-improving Germany, who have not had the opportunity to face the exciting Russian side at the EHF EURO since 2008.
World champions the Netherlands have been placed in group C at the Trondheim Spektrum, where they will definitely face Hungary from Pot 2. Curiously, these sides met in group C two years ago, where the Dutch prevailed 28:25 in a tight contest.
The side they defeated in last year’s World Championship final, Spain, are a potential match in Pot 3, while the two of the teams they lost to en route to the final, Germany and Slovenia, are potential opponents lying in wait in Pots 3 and 4.
Following their struggles in Japan last year, Romania will be chomping at the bit for redemption this December. There is a 33 per cent chance they will be given a chance to repeat the 2018 preliminary round win over Norway, this time in their opponents' own back yard.
Having suffered contrasting but equally painful defeats to Spain and Montenegro in the preliminary round at Japan 2019, there is a 50 per cent chance of a rematch with one of the sides in Pot 3.
My ‘Group of Death’
Russia, Norway, Spain, Slovenia. What a preliminary round group this would be. Three semi-finalists from Japan 2019 and Slovenia – the giant killers from Pot 4 everyone will be hoping to avoid in their opening match.
The spread of quality teams among the four pots ensures there will be plenty of evenly fought battles, but this quartet would ensure all eyes will be on Trondheim for the opening week of EHF EURO 2020.