27/09/2019

14 home sides on hunt for first points

ROUND 2 PREVIEW: After every match in the opening Women's EHF EURO 2020 qualifiers ended in favour of the hosts, the 14 round 1 victors will face highly motivated opponents away this weekend

Austria, after losing in the Netherlands on Thursday, are after their first points in the EHF EURO 2020 qualifiers when they host Spain on Sunday

It is only round 2 of the Women’s EHF EURO 2020 qualifiers, but the pressure is already mounting, with several teams facing critical battles that may ultimately decide their fate this weekend. After all round 1 points went to the home sides, the winners of the opening clashes are now set to play their first matches away, against squads highly motivated to put their first points on the board.

GROUP 1

Austria vs Spain
Sunday 29 September, 20:25 CET, live on ehfTV.com

It was a dramatic conclusion to the Women’s EHF EURO 2018 qualifiers when Slovenia secured a last-minute draw versus Czech Republic, which meant they finished as the best third-ranked side overall and took the last ticket to the final tournament in France. And it was Austria who suffered the consequences, as a Slovenia loss would have meant they proceeded to their first EHF EURO since 2008. With two host nations in 2020, there is no chance to qualify as the best third-ranked team, so Austria will need to place among the top two if they hope to make up for their disappointment two years ago.

After a defeat to 2018 bronze medallist the Netherlands in round 1 – where the final result of 32:24 did not reflect their challenge to the Dutch – Austria will be eyeing their first set of two points when they meet Spain at home in Maria Enzersdorf. Meanwhile, Spain arrive in round 2 on the back of a victory over Greece in their opener. While the overall record between the teams is level with three wins apiece, Spain have been the victors in every match played this century – so Austria appear to have their work cut out for them.

GROUP 2

Lithuania vs Montenegro
Sunday 29 September, 16:00 CET, live on ehfTV.com

Will Lithuania cause an upset or will Montenegro add a second win to their EHF EURO 2020 qualifiers record? It is a clash between two teams that have never met in any official match, so there is no knowing what the hosts of Sunday’s match are capable of versus the EHF EURO 2012 champions.

It is also a battle between two of the top scorers of round 1 – Montenegro captain Jovanka Radicevic and Lithuania’s Greta Kavaliauskaite. Radicevic contributed nine goals towards Montenegro’s commanding round 1 victory over Italy, while Kavaliauskaite tallied the same in Lithuania’s defeat to Hungary.

Lithuania were the talk of round 1 of the EHF EURO 2018 qualifiers after they forced Germany to a draw at home. Consistency has proven a problem as Lithuania have not always been able to recreate that same level on court, but two years on, playing in front of their own crowd, perhaps they can produce a surprise.

GROUP 4

Slovakia vs Serbia
Sunday 29 September, 17:00 CET, live on ehfTV.com

While EHF EURO 2018 runners-up Russia travel to Switzerland for round 2, appearing the strong favourites to take the points despite playing away, Serbia will also aim for their second group 4 win when they meet Slovakia. However, Serbia might face a more difficult task than Russia. They have played Slovakia once, in the EHF EURO 2014 group phase – and it was Slovakia that took a two-goal win, 23:21, in the encounter.

That game was in Croatia, and Slovakia should only be in a better position playing on their own ground. This clash therefore has the potential to throw the group open, if Slovakia collect the points, while a win for Serbia will see them in a solid position on maximum points after the first two rounds.

GROUP 5

Portugal vs Sweden
Saturday 28 September, 17:30 CET, live on ehfTV.com

The Portugal men’s team have already had their moment, when they qualified for the EHF EURO 2020 – their first berth at the European championship since 2006. Portuguese men’s handball, both on an international and club level, has been making increasingly bigger waves. Can the women’s side soon make a name for themselves as well? Playing at home on Saturday, Portugal are chasing their first win of the qualifiers when they host Sweden. 

Sweden have a much stronger participation record in the final EURO tournaments than Portugal, having contested every edition of the event since 2002, while the last berth for the hosts of Saturday’s clash was in 2008. The teams have met only twice in official international matches – and the good news for Portugal is that they emerged on top when playing at home. Portugal are known for responding particularly well to the home crowd advantage. Will it be enough this weekend?

GROUP 7

Ukraine vs Poland
Saturday 28 September, 18:00 CET, live on ehfTV.com

It is only round 2 but this clash already looks to be a critical one in the final ranking for group 7. In the group alongside EHF EURO 2018 semi-finalists Romania, who should have the power to finish in first position on the table, it appears the biggest rivalry will be for second position. Poland won their round 1 encounter versus Faroe Islands, while Ukraine played a solid game that saw them defeated by Romania by three goals.

The historical balance between these sides is completely equal, with four wins each. Most recently, Poland won the two qualification play-offs on the path to the 2015 Women’s World Championship, where they ultimately placed fourth – their last significant success before entering the current rebuilding period.

Remaining round 2 fixtures:

GROUP 1

Greece vs Netherlands
Sunday 29 September, 16:30 CET, live on ehfTV.com

GROUP 2

Italy vs Hungary
Sunday 29 September, 17:00 CET, live on ehfTV.com 

GROUP 3

Kosovo vs Germany
Sunday 29 September, 20:00 CET, live on ehfTV.com

Belarus vs Slovenia
Sunday 29 September, 15:30 CET, live on ehfTV.com 

GROUP 4

Switzerland vs Russia
Sunday 29 September, 17:00 CET, live on ehfTV.com 

GROUP 5

North Macedonia vs Czech Republic 
Saturday 28 September, 18:00 CET, live on ehfTV.com 

GROUP 6

Iceland vs France
Sunday 29 September, 16:00 CET, live on ehfTV.com

Turkey vs Croatia
Sunday 29 September, 18:00 CET, live on ehfTV.com

GROUP 7

Faroe Islands vs Romania
Sunday 29 September, 17:00 CET, live on ehfTV.com

written by Courtney Gahan / ew