25/09/2019

Croatia keep Iceland to record low score; defending champions start with a win

QUALIFIERS REVIEW 1: Romania collected the first points of the Women's EHF EURO 2020 qualifiers, while Croatia, France, Czech Republic and Poland earned decisive victories

Croatia, with Nikolina Zadravec, enjoyed a great start into their qualifying campaign

On the first day of Women’s EHF EURO 2020 qualifiers, all the celebrations belonged to the home teams, as every squad playing on their own ground rewarded their fans with a victory.

Romania became the first team to clinch two points on the path to the Women’s EHF EURO 2020, when they defeated Ukraine in the opening clash of the qualifiers on Wednesday evening. Croatia followed Romania to two points with a far more decisive victory – one that set a dubious record for Iceland: The final score of 29:8 represented Iceland’s lowest ever number of goals scored in any EHF EURO qualifier.

The last three matches of the day saw defending title holders France off to a winning start versus Turkey, while Czech Republic and Poland also recorded victories that put their first points on their respective tables.

GROUP 5

Czech Republic vs Portugal 31:20 (13:11)

Czech Republic were the favourites ahead of the encounter, particularly considering they had never lost an official game to Portugal and had the home crowd on their side. It was therefore an impressive performance from the visitors that saw the half-time distance at just two goals.

Portugal’s defence kept the usually prolific scorer Iveta Koresova (nee Luzumova) exceptionally quiet in the first half – the back scored just one goal in the opening 30 minutes, before finishing with a total of four.

Koresova’s greater impression in the second period highlighted Portugal’s waning strength. After the break, Portugal reduced the gap to one goal, 14:13, in the 34th minute – but that was the last time the points were within reach.

Just five minutes later, Koresova pulled the home team in front 19:14, and the score line only grew from there. It was Koresova who struck for Czech Republic’s first 10-goal lead, at 24:14 in the 45th, at which stage the points were decided. 

GROUP 6

Croatia vs Iceland 29:8 (14:3)

It was far from an enjoyable visit to Osijek for Iceland. The Nordic side could only manage three goals in the opening half, and they never hit double digits.

Croatia’s victory was therefore assured long before the final whistle sounded. When the hosts created a 5:1 lead in the opening 10 minutes, the shooting efficiency told the story clearly enough – while Croatia had scored on 83% of their chances, Iceland had managed 20%. 

Croatia’s 6-0 defence supported by goalkeeper Ivana Kapitanovic kept Iceland to a lengthy scoring drought. After their second goal in the 11th minute, the visitors did not add to their tally again until the 29th – at which point Croatia had sailed ahead. 

The second period was a considerable mental challenge for Iceland, as there was little hope of a comeback. Croatia reached a 15-goal lead at 20:5 in the 41st minute, and there was no doubt they would keep the two points at home.

France vs Turkey 38:17 (15:9)

Turkey had the most intimidating task of round 1 of the qualifiers, coming up against the current world and European title holders. The visitors did well to keep the distance to six goals at half-time, before France completely controlled the second period.

The first half was far from France’s best performance, as they finished with a shooting efficiency of 40% – though they were stronger than Turkey in this regard.

As always, France’s defence was key, as the 6-0 supported by keeper Amandine Leynaud created opportunities for fast-break goals. When wing Manon Houette added her fifth goal with 15 minutes remaining, it took France’s fast-break tally to 13, versus just three for the visitors.

France’s defence caused Turkey significant trouble, and the guests recorded 14 turnovers in the first period – a crucial factor that enabled France to create their half-time advantage.

In the second half, 21-year-old Roxanne Frank stood between the posts. The comparatively inexperienced keeper filled Leynaud’s shoes well and France’s victory was never in danger.

GROUP 7

Romania vs Ukraine 27:24 (15:12)

After they created a three-goal lead in the first 10 minutes of play, 6:3, Romania had to work hard to keep their opponents at bay. It was exactly that score line that stood at the final whistle, and also at the half-time break in Brasov.

With Cristina Neagu still on the bench, other players in Romania’s back court stepped up. Eliza Buceschi has played an increasingly important role for Romania, and working alongside Cristina Laslo, proved to be a key factor in the win. The two combined for 14 of Romania’s goals, and it was Buceschi who secured the victory when she converted a penalty in the 59th minute, for 26:22.

Prior to that, Romania’s win was never safe. Once they fell behind in the opening 10 minutes, Ukraine kept pace. Their persistence was rewarded when they came within two goals late in the game, but a save from Denisa Dedu on a fast break in the 47th kept the score at 22:20 and created the chance for her teammates to reopen a clearer gap.

Poland vs Faroe Islands 28:16 (12:8)

Like so many of the teams defeated in round 1 of the qualifiers, Faroe Islands kept within reach of their opponents through the first 30 minutes before succumbing to a decisive loss at the final whistle.

With less depth on their squad list, Faroe Islands could not rely on as many players as Poland. The result was clear, as the visitors had the power to keep a four-goal distance at the end of the first half, but their strength faded as the clock ticked on.

Only three players scored for Faroe Islands in the first half, and though more added their name to the board in the second period, Poland were always more than comfortably in command. Led by a great second half from Monika Kobylinska, who finished as the top scorer of the game with seven goals, Poland steadily increased their advantage.

The outcome was clearly decided when Kobylinska netted for 22:12 with 13 minutes on the clock.

written by Courtney Gahan / ew