Russia keen to build on promising draw

PREVIEW: Close matches are expected in Tuesday’s Group A matches, while wins for Norway and Denmark could secure two of Group B’s main round spots for the Scandinavian sides

Photo: Uros Hocevar

Prior to the opening matches of Group A and B on Sunday, exactly which teams would qualify for the main round of the EHF EURO 2014 was difficult to predict and the first games were expected to make things clearer.

But surprisingly big wins from Spain and Norway have thrown Poland and Romania unexpectedly to the bottom of the table, while Russia shocked Hungarian fans with a tense draw against the hosts.

Group A - Russia vs Spain, Tuesday 9 December, 18:15 hrs

Tuesday's meeting between Russia and Spain should be one of the most exciting in Group A. Both sides opened the group phase of the EHF EURO 2014 with spectacular performances, with Spain defeating Poland 29:22 and Russia surprising Hungary with a 29:29 draw.

The final score line of the match between Hungary and Russia does not reflect the superb game played by the Russians. The visiting side were convincing in the first half in particular as they battled not only their on-court opponents but also a vocal Hungarian crowd in the Audi Arena.

Spain play a different style than Russia, with speed and fast counter attacks their main weapon. Russia's attack is dominated by back court shooters who worked brilliantly with line player Ksenia Makeeva.

Both sides are clearly in good form, so a close, exciting match can be expected when they meet.

Spain are currently alone at the top of the Group A table with two points.

GROUP A - Poland vs Hungary, Tuesday 9 December, 20:30 hrs

After a shaky start to the tournament for Hungary, where nerves were clearly a significant factor in the first half, the tournament co-hosts will be looking for an improved performance when they take to the court against Poland on Tuesday.

But they will be facing a Polish side eager for redemption following their seven-goal loss to Spain on Sunday.

What Poland coach Kim Rasmussen can accomplish with his team in terms of recovery from their disappointing loss could prove key - the coach clearly has a magic way with the squad, who obviously respond well to the Dane's tactics.

Hungary on the other hand will be more prepared for the intense atmosphere in Audi Arena, and are expected to play a much stronger match on Tuesday.

Group B - Romania vs Denmark, Tuesday 9 December, 18:15 hrs

Despite ultimately recording a 32:23 win in their opening match against Ukraine, Denmark had a weaker start to the game than expected.

Nevertheless, the Scandinavians gave a glimpse of the excellent form seen in the lead up to the tournament in the second half, supporting the expectation that they will qualify for the main round.

Romania had a more disappointing start to the EHF EURO 2014, with a 19:27 loss to Norway. They were not expected to lose so significantly, as there is no denying the strong threat posed from the back court and cooperation with line players in attack.

Romania will undoubtedly be determined to make up for their lacklustre performance when they meet Denmark, who in turn will be looking to continue their good form but with a more solid start to the match.

Denmark can secure their ticket to the main round with a win on Tuesday.

Group B - Ukraine vs Norway, Tuesday 9 December, 20:30 hrs

Norway proved they are yet again a strong contender with their convincing win against Romania on Sunday, while Ukraine recorded a significant loss against Denmark.

These results put Norway securely in the position of favourites ahead of Tuesday's meeting, but the formidable team should not underestimate their opponents.

Ukraine managed to keep pace with Denmark for most of the first half of their match on Sunday, which means they could certainly trouble Norway if the Scandinavians are not careful.

A Norwegian victory seems the likely outcome of the round two group phase match in Debrecen and if Norway do win, they will book their ticket to the main round of the tournament. This means the experienced side will be aiming for a solid victory that will assure them early qualification.

written by Courtney Gahan / ts


Group A: Russia vs. Spain