Two years after failing to take advantage on home court, Greece swept their opponents Luxembourg aside in emphatic fashion to win the Qualification Phase 1 tournament and progress through to the next phase of the Women’s EHF EURO 2020 qualification pathway.
Greece won all three games in their group, against Israel, Finland and Luxembourg, but will be huge underdogs in the Qualification Phase 2, where they will face Netherlands, Spain and Austria for a place in the final tournament.
On Sunday, Greece comfortably disposed of Luxembourg, 27:14, while Israel secured the second place in a group, with a 26:26 draw against Finland.
WOMEN'S EHF EURO 2020, QUALIFICATION PHASE 1
GROUP AIsrael vs Finland 26:26 (17:10)
Finland were in dire straits after two straight disappointing outings against Luxembourg and Greece and when their opponents took an early 5:1 lead, it looked to be more of the same as the Israelis exposed what the Finnish side lacked in defence and attack.
However, Finland bounced back and cut the gap to only two goals, 7:5, only for an 8:1 run for the Israeli side to help them open an impressive 15:6 lead.
It looked like Israel had the win in the bag, but another let down was in store, just like when they failed to stop the Greek pressure in the second half of their first game of the tournament.
Despite never taking the lead, Finland – down by seven at the break – came back to tie the game in the last 10 minutes, as Israel failed to open the gap to more than one goal.
The 26:26 draw confirmed Israel’s second place in the group, while the Nordic side finished last, with a solitary point out of three games.
Shira Vakrat was Israel's best scorer once again, with 12 goals.Greece vs Luxembourg 27:14 (14:5)
There was no sense of urgency for Greece to press for a win, as they only needed a draw against Luxembourg to proceed to the next Qualification Phase, although with the earlier draw it was clear for their opponents that a win would seal their qualification and dump the Greeks out on home turf.
However, the Greek victory was never in doubt despite a nervy and turnover-ridden start, with the two sides combining for just one goal each in the first eight minutes.
It certainly took defensive grit and sheer will to pull through for Greece, as their 9:2 run to end the first half gave them a comfortable 14:5 cushion.
A 5:0 run to start the second half of the game clinched the win for the host nation, who made it three out of three to clinch the group and earn a safe passage to the next round with a 27:14 win.
With a win in the first game, Luxembourg finished third, an amazing coup as they tasted Qualification Phase 1 action for the first time in 25 years.
"I want to say a very big thank you to my players," said Greece coach Menelaos Danilos to the Hellenic Handball Federation after the match. "Their efforts have been rewarded and Greece are now in the next EURO stage. I want to thank my (coaching) colleagues Alexandros Tarinidis, Christos Tzouvaras, our doctors and the players who all gave us everything with three games in three days "
Photo: Hellenic Handball Federation