French victory confirms Sweden's semi-final spot

MATCH REVIEW: France beat Netherlands 20:18 in the last main round match in Zagreb. The result sees France playing for 5th place, while Netherlands' EHF EURO campaign is over

Photo: Stephane Pillaud

It was clear before the start that the last main round match in Zagreb, France against Netherlands, would decide which team would follow Montenegro from Group II to the semi-finals.

France recorded a 20:18 win against the Dutch, but eventually none of the two really celebrated as this result confirmed Sweden's second rank in Group II who will face Norway on Friday.

France will also travel to Budapest where they will face Hungary in the match for fifth place.

"It was hard to win this match, and now we made it to Budapest, this was the goal we had," said right back Alexandre Lacrabere.

Netherlands would have needed a win by ten goals or more to qualify for the semi-final. The loss at the hands of France means that their EHF EURO campaign ends after the main round as they are ranked fourth in Group II - overall they finish the EHF EURO ranked seventh ahead of Romania from Group I.

To the delight of the Dutch fans left back Estavana Polman was able to play after she had sustained an injury in Tuesday's match against Montenegro, and when she entered the court in the 19th minute, applause from the supporters erupted on the stands.

Both sides looked determined at the beginning of the game, but they also displayed problems in attack.

The two teams played at the same level in the first half; the half-time result of 9:7 in favour of Netherlands was the first two-goal-lead any side enjoyed in the match.

The last goal of the first half was scored by Dutch top scorer Nycke Groot, It was her fifth in the match at that stage and by adding another five in the second half, she ended the game on 10 and the EHF EURO on 30 goals.

Half-time statistics also showed why France were trailing by two: Only every third attack resulted in a goal and it was only courtesy of Amandine Leynaud's save rate of 44 per cent that they were not trailing by more.

But the team of head coach Alain Portes entered the second half with more passion and inspiration. They scored the first four goals and suddenly enjoyed an 11:9 lead.

France gained confidence, as Netherlands ran out of steam when they realised that a 10-goal victory was not possible any longer.

France did not give the lead from their hands until the end, and at the latest when Grace Zaadi hammered a shot in the goal's top corner to make it 20:17 four minutes before the end, the deal was sealed.

written by Björn Pazen / ts


MR II: Germany vs. France