Spain challenge Montenegro, while Sweden face Norway

PREVIEW: The Women's EHF EURO 2014 moves to its last destination as Budapest welcomes the tournament's four semi-finalists

Photos: Hocevar / Pillaud

The first semi-final at Budapest's Papp Laszlo Sportarena on Friday will see Spain take on defending champions Montenegro in what is likely to be match of two entirely different playing systems.

In the second knockout match Sweden meet EHF EURO record winners Norway in what is the re-match of the EHF EURO 2010 Final.

With a 29:25 win against Norway on Wednesday in Main Round Group I tournament co-hosts Hungary qualified for the match for 5th place in which they play France.

Semi-final 1: Montenegro vs. Spain, Friday 19 December, 18:00 hrs

Montenegro will have mixed memories when entering their semi-final against Spain. In the Last 16 of the World Championship 2011 Spain beat them 23:19, while the last two encounters ended with a Montenegrin victory: First at the 2012 Olympic Semi-final (27:26) and then at the EHF EURO 2012 Main Round (27:23).

For both teams this clash in the Papp Laszlo Sportarena is their second semi-final appearance at Women's EHF EURO level.

Spain beat Germany in 2008 and eventually won silver; Montenegro defeated Serbia to win the trophy against Norway in 2012.

The main round at the EHF EURO 2014 was different experience for both teams: Montenegro had arrived with only two points, but they became the only team to win all three encounters in Zagreb and eventually topped Group II.

Spain arrived in Debrecen with the maximum of four points, but they lost against Norway and Romania and sealed their semi-final spot only with a win against Denmark (29:22) on Wednesday.

"I clearly would have preferred Denmark", said Montenegrin coach Dragan Adzic: "But we are currently strong enough to be on one level with all opponents, in particular in defence."

Spain count on their team spirit: "Montenegro is a great team, so we need to improve, but we can manage it with our team spirit," said Spanish wing Carmen Martin.

Semi-final 2: Norway vs. Sweden, Friday 19 December, 20:30 hrs

Two vs. nine: The difference in terms of semi-final participations at Women's EHF EURO events could not be bigger between Norway and Sweden.

Norway were only once not part of an EURO semi-final (in 2000), five times they won the title, eight times they were finalists.

Sweden have reached their second semi-final after they made it for the first time in 2010, when a win against Romania paved the way to the final where they lost against Norway 20:25.

After five consecutive wins at the EHF EURO 2014, Norway lost their last main round match against Hungary 25:29.

However, they were able to save some valuable energy as some key players rested, while Sweden had a true battle to fight against Montenegro on Wednesday which they lost 29:30.

"This is a really tough task, but we have gained confidence on our way to Budapest," said goalkeeper Filippa Idehn.

The fact that Norway meet Sweden also means that one Scandinavian team will fight for gold on Sunday. Only the final in 2000, Hungary vs. Ukraine, took place without the participation of either Norway, Sweden or Denmark.

The fans in the Papp Laszlo Sportarena are likely to see many goals, as both sides count on fast breaks and high speed in attack.

Ahead of the tournament both teams had arguably not been the red-hot favourites for the semi-finals, but both improved throughout the event.

"We became better and better, our young player made great steps forward. Now we prepare for Sweden after some of us could rest a bit against Hungary," said line player Heidi Loke.

Placement match 5/6: Hungary vs. France, Friday 19 December, 15:30 hrs

The wish of Hungary's women's national team to play the EHF EURO 2014 in all three Hungarian venues eventually came true.

After having played their group phase in Györ and the main round in Debrecen, the team will bid farewell to their fans in Budapest.

Their hopes - and the expectations - had arguably been higher, but after Hungary had arrived in the main round with only two points on their account, the match for fifth place against France was all that was eventually possible.

France gave the chance to determine their own fate from their hands when they only drew 24:24 against Germany on Tuesday, but a win against Netherlands on Wednesday saw at least reaching the final weekend.

The match for fifth place might become significant with regards to the Olympic Qualification Tournaments in 2016, but the exact relevance will only be known after the Women's World Championship 2015 in Denmark.

written by Björn Pazen / ts


MR II: Sweden vs. France