Isabelle Gulldén, playing for Viborg
Today’s matches saw a mix of the predictable and the unexpected – and plenty of smiles across Scandinavia at full time. There were wins for Norway, Sweden and Denmark – and the hosts got to join the party as well.
The final standings in Group A may rest on how seriously Norway take their last game. They were off the boil today against Czech Republic, only hitting the front in the final few minutes having trailed throughout, and hanging on thanks to Katrine Haraldsen’s series of superb stops (including two from 7m) at the death. With a more predictable (although well-contested) win for Serbia in the earlier match it means that if Ukraine beat Norway, who have a beat of a reputation of not always being focused in the early rounds, they could qualify for the next stage ahead of the loser of Czech Republic v Serbia. Abacuses may be required but I’ll back the European, World and Olympic champions to render them unnecessary although a repeat performance by Czech goalkeeper Barbora Ranikova might cause the Serbs some nervous moments.
Unless something bizarre happens then Group B is easier to call. Macedonia were off the pace again today and so Sweden were able to make it two wins from two. 8 goals from Linnea Torstensson and 7 via Isabelle Gulldén gave the Swedes a comfortable 26:15 victory. The other match was a bit of a shock with this ‘transition’ Denmark team doing the business against France. The French looked almost unwilling to shoot at the end, despite having pulled their keeper, and so the Danes emerged 28:27 winners. Although a last second shot from France hit the bar but that would have been unfair on the ladies in red. Denmark should beat Macedonia which will render the result of the final match between France and Sweden irrelevant in terms of qualification – although obviously both will want points.
Friday’s matches (predicted victors in bold – all matches live in the UK on YouTube)
Group C: 5.15pm (UK) Hungary v Spain; 7.15pm Croatia v Germany
Group D: 5.05pm Russia v Iceland; 7.15pm Romania v Montenegro
Permeatations (although please understand I may be wrong on all this) Hungary and Spain are through so the final qualifier will come from the Croatia v Germany match. Germany need to overturn a three-goal points difference in the table.
Romania and Montenegro have qualified. If Iceland beat Russia they will progress; a draw or win will be fine for the Russians.