There will be something a little unusual about the 11th Men’s European Handball Championship. There will be no Germany. The three-time World Champions and 2004 European winners finished third in their qualifying group and so will not be making the short hop over to Denmark. Sixteen of their fellow continentals did make it though (if we include Iceland as being ‘continental’) although Denmark had already done the decent thing and qualified as hosts and champions.
There was a bit of last-day drama: in the last game of the process Macedonia beat Portugal and so leapfrogged over their Iberian guests; Austria had an emotional win over Russia but they both qualified anyway with Russia taking the only ‘best loser’ slot; Belarus won in Slovenia to snuff out the latter’s chances of taking their place.
The final list therefore looks like this: Denmark, France, Spain, Iceland, Sweden, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Montenegro, Croatia, Serbia, Czech Republic, Belarus, Austria, Russia and Macedonia. There are no teams making their first appearance but it is the first time Austria have qualified – their only previous appearance was when they were hosts.
The tournament will start on 14 January next year – about three weeks after the Women’s World Championship finishes in Serbia. There is likely to be exceptionally good coverage via ehftv who do these things very well indeed.
The qualification for 2014’s men’s championship in Denmark is still ongoing but for some countries the journey to 2016 in Poland is already at an end. Two of those countries are Great Britain and Ireland who both played their final matches in the process yesterday.
Ireland lost 36:12 in Belgium to finish bottom of the group that also features Estonia. Belgium must win by eight or more goals away in Estonia on Sunday to take the only qualifying spot in the group – any other result sees Estonia qualify for Stage 2. Like Ireland, Great Britain end with four losses but they can take some heart from turning around some very heavy defeats. Their first game (against Greece) saw them go down by 29 goals – this time out in Italy it was an 11 goal margin but was closer than that until very near the end. Steven Larsson top-scored in the match with 8 goals. Like Belgium, Italy now need to win away, this time by seven goals over Greece if they and not the Greeks are to progress.
Already through to the next stage are Finland who can use their last game, at home to Cyprus, to chillax and ponder the big guns waiting for them in stage 2.
Courtesy of Digisport Romania on YouTube
And it includes Viborg, home of Holly Lam-Moores. The team leading the Danish league were always favourites to qualify from the tournament they were hosting and whilst they had it tougher in the final against Vistal Laczpol Gdynia than many had thought they would they still had enough in the bag for a 26:22 win. Lam-Moores becomes the first Brit to play in the main stages of the Champions League.
U Jolidon Cluj of Romania also hosted a tournament and they too qualified. A close match against Rostov-Don of Russia ended with a 23:22 win for the home side who were cheered on by 2,500 spectators.
Hosts who didn’t make it through were Byasen Trondheim who despite 7 goals from Ida Alstad went down 26:22 to Buxtehuder of Germany and Issy Paris Hand who had to beat Zvezda Zvenigorod but instead lost 26:20.
The confirmed groups look like this:
Group A: Oltchim Rm. Valcea (Romania); Randers HK (Denmark); Hypo NÖ (Austria); Buxtehuder (Germany)
Group B: Györi Audi ETO (Hungary); Krim Mercator (Slovakia); Podravka Vegeta (Croatia); U Jolidon Cluj (Romania)
Group C: Larvik (Norway); Dinamo Volgograd (Russia); IK Savehof (Sweden); Rail Cargo Hungaria (Hungary)
Group D: Buducnost (Montenegro); Thüringer (Germany); Zvezda Zvenigorod (Russia); Viborg (Denmark)
Matches start on 13th and 14th October and all games will be shown live, although without commentary, on ehftv.com.