The two finalists of the EHF EURO 2018 will take the court on the opening day of group I matches on Thursday, with Russia opening against Montenegro before France meet Spain.
While Russia and France are in a strong position at the start of this phase, Spain and Montenegro are the sides with the biggest mountains to climb as they chase semi-final berths.
Montenegro vs Russia
Thursday 10 December, 18:15 CET, live on EHFTV
- Russia start the main round on top of the group with four points gathered from wins against fellow group B teams Spain and Sweden
- Montenegro have zero points following losses to their group A opponents France and Denmark
- the historical balance stands at four wins for each side, and two draws. At EHF EURO tournaments, Montenegro have beaten Russia twice and Russia have won once
- in the preliminary round at the EHF EURO 2018, Russia edged Montenegro by just one goal before going on to clinch the silver medal, while Montenegro ranked ninth
- this match will see right wing Jovanka Radicevic become the all-time record holder for most EHF EURO games for Montenegro – she currently shares the record, 32 games, with Milena Raicevic and Marina Rajcic
Jovanka Radicevic, Montenegro right wing: “Even as Russia miss some top players, they are extremely strong with two equal options for every position. Even replacing Anna Vyakhireva was no problem for them. But we will fight. We got used to all those surrounding circumstances now – we got mentally stronger.”
Ambros Martin, Russia coach: “It is very important that we forget how many points we have, that we got because we deserve them. We need to face and focus on the next matches in the same way we came here. Try to make the best we can, play the best handball we can and play like a team as we’re used to.”
France vs Spain
Thursday 10 December, 20:30 CET, live on EHFTV
- defending title holders France begin the main round with four points and are in a stronger position than they were two years ago, when they started this stage with two points, while Spain carry one point from group B into this phase
- 18 goals at the EHF EURO 2020 have taken Spain wing Carmen Martin to fifth on the all-time top scorer standings, with 186. With five more goals, she will pass Norwegian Linn-Kristin Riegelhuth Koren – as Sweden’s Isabelle Gulldén did in the preliminary round
- this will be France captain Siraba Dembélé Pavlovic’s 50th EHF EURO match. She leads France’s all-time standings for EHF EURO games played
- Spain and France have met a total of 15 times in official matches, with the balance overwhelmingly in France’s favour, at 11 wins, and two for Spain
- one of the most recent encounters was a very important one: Spain will not forget the quarter-final against France at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, when France came back from 5:12 behind at half-time to force extra time and ultimately eliminated Spain from the competition
Amandine Leynaud, France goalkeeper: "Even as we start with four points, this means nothing, we should not look upon the match against Russia or the semi-final or whatever. We just should have Spain in mind. I guess they are always especially motivated against us, as we eliminate them quite often. So, it will be special – like we face three completely different teams in the main round, for which you need three completely different preparations."
Mireya Gonzalez, Spain right back: “We are where we wanted to be. This point can help us a lot, but we have to be better if we want to get better results against teams like France or Denmark. Now we are feeling better after the end of the last match, but we now must prepare for the next games.”