Serbia vs. Croatia: now among the women as well!
No major casualties at the qualification tournaments, though the road to Baku proved to be a bit bumpy for a couple of teams. Single goal wins here, goal difference counting there – it was a rather eventful weekend, a fine lead-up for the first edition of the European Games. This event will also be recognised as this year’s junior European Championships.
The tourneys produced an interesting fact: none of the four hosts could make the Games among the men, while all three did it among the women.
The Dutch boys were agonisingly close in Nijverdal but lost the decisive battle to Ukraine 10-11 – here, in Group A, Greece was a cut above the rest. Slovakia and Turkey booked the top two places in Group B with ease, their clash for the top spot was a thriller, though, the Slovaks had the better finish and won 13-12. The same happened in Group C, France and Romania were the frontrunners, their supremacy wasn’t in danger, while they played a thrilling match with the French prevailing 8-6.
Germany ruled Group D, the fight for the second qualifying berth couldn’t have been any tougher, Malta survived some scaring moments before defeating Great Britain 7-6. Newcomers Latvians had some devastasting experience here, conceding 211 goals in five games, alone 67 from the Germans, quite a feat for both sides in a 32-minute encounter.
The Brits got some good news from France where their female side caught the flight to Baku, though it wasn’t an easy ride as they tied with the Czechs and only the goal difference favoured them. Just as among the men, France and Romania shared the same group and both went through. Belgrade witnessed tough battles in Group C, the top three sides played nailbiters among themselves, and after long decades we could see a huge duel between Serbia and Croatia in a women event. It was worthy of the men’s traditions, ended in a 5-5 draw which sent the Serbs through.
Group A (Nijverdal, NED)
1. Greece 15, 2. Ukraine 12, 3. Netherlands 9, 4. Belarus 6, 4. Slovenia 3, 6. Portugal 0
Group B (Graz, AUT)
1. Slovakia 15, 2. Turkey 12, 3. Georgia 9, 4. Moldova 4, 5. Austria 4, 6. Bulgaria 0
Group C (Szczecin, POL)
1. France 12, 3. Romania 9, 3. Poland 6, 4. Israel 3, 5. Czech Republic 0
Group D (Valletta, MLT)
1. Germany 12, 2. Malta 9, 3. Great Britain 6, 4. Switzerland 3, 5. Latvia 0
First two seeded teams of each group have joined the sides already qualified (16-team field): Montenegro, Serbia, Italy, Hungary, Croatia, Russia, Spain and Azerbaijan (host).
Group A (Nice, FRA)
1. France 12, 2. Great Britain 7 (76-24), 3. Czech Republic 7 (43-33), 4. Portugal 3, 5. Switzerland 0
Group B (Bratislava, SVK)
1. Slovakia 9, 2. Israel 6, 2. Bulgaria 3, 4. Turkey 0
Group C (Belgrade, SRB)
1. Germany 7, 2. Serbia 5, 3. Croatia 4, 4. Romania 0
First two seeded teams of each group have joined the sides already qualified (12-team field): Greece, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Hungary, Russia.
The draw for the European Games will be held on Thursday, 19 March in the LEN Office, Luxembourg.