Surprises can happen in handball and this is exactly what Luxembourg did in their first qualifying game for a Women’s EHF EURO event since 1994.
The Luxembourgish team managed to stay clear of Finland after an impressive 8:3 run to close the first half to earn their first ever win in an official EHF EURO qualifying phase game, 27:24.
In the other game of the day, hosts Greece sweated during the first half against Israel, but overpowered their opponents in the second period to take first place in the group, after a 28:21 win.
WOMEN’S EHF EURO 2020, QUALIFICATON PHASE 1
Finland vs Luxembourg 24:27 (13:18)
Overwhelming favourites, judging by their experience, but the Finnish side was in for a shock after a disappointing defensive performance in the first half.
There was no love lost between the two teams, as Luxembourg managed to stay afloat and were never behind by more than one goal in the first 30 minutes. Moreover, a superb 8:3 run, which ended the first half, saw the inexperienced Luxembourg team take an 18:13 lead into half-time.
It was a better start to the second half for the Finns, who cut the gap to only two goals, 19:17, yet there was another fightback from the Luxembourg players, as the lead grew again to 21:18.
The experience looked to play a part in the final result, with Finland tying the game twice, but Luxembourg had the upper hand in the end and maintained their good start to the game until the final whistle, by storming to a surprising 27:24 win.
Line player Tina Welter was the best scorer for Luxembourg with eight goals, while Johanna Hilli scored seven times for Finland, but could not prevent the defeat.
Tomorrow, Luxembourg will play against Israel, while Finland can see their hopes of progressing shattered if they fail to win against Greece.
Israel vs Greece 21:28 (12:11)
Two years ago, Greece failed to qualify from a Phase 1 tournament organised on home soil, therefore the Greek team were already properly motivated to avenge their defeat.
A 3:1 Greek run looked as if the hosts were poised to enjoy an easy afternoon, but Israel roared back with their own 4:0 run that put them in front, 5:3, after 12 minutes.
There was nothing to separate the two sides, who engaged in a nip-and-tuck game, as there was a total of seven lead changes in the first half, only for Israel to hold the slightest of advantages at the break, 12:11.
But it was on the back of a 9:0 salvo when Greece took the lead and never looked back, as they jumped to unassailable 23:15 lead, with Israel failing to score over an 11-minute span.
Eventually, the Greek side powered to a 28:21 win, taking the lead in the group until tomorrow, when they meet Finland.
Krim’s Lamprini Tsakalou scored eight times for Greece, being the top scorer in the game.