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02.12.2018, 22:05
Slovakia, Switzerland, FYR Macedonia and Iceland reach World Championship Play-offs
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NEWS: There were fiery clashes and some late drama as four more teams earned their berths for the Women’s World Championship 2019 Play-offs
 

Slovakia, Switzerland, FYR Macedonia and Iceland reach World Championship Play-offs

The EHF EURO 2018 in France is in full stride, but elsewhere in Europe the first qualification phase for the Women’s World Championship 2019 took place in the last two weeks, with five teams earning berths for the play-offs scheduled for June 2019.

While Belarus earned the Group 3 play-off spot one week ago, after a sweep against Greece, Portugal and Italy, four other places were up for grabs, with Greece hoping to pry the best-ranked second place spot despite their negative goal difference.

Slovakia have failed to qualify for a final tournament since 1995, but had little trouble in disposing of Israel and Kosovo in Group 1. Their 36:32 win against Ukraine was pivotal in securing the play-off berth, as the home court advantage proved vital for the Slovakian side.

A strong defence, with only 49 goals received over the course of three matches against Lithuania, Faroe Islands and Finland, saw Switzerland progress with a clean slate from Group 2. Yet everything could have been different if Lithuania had had enough in their tank to prevent the 21:20 loss against the hosts in the first game.

In Group 4, FYR Macedonia enjoyed three comfortable wins in Skopje, earning their play-off spot with a clean sweep. A 41:22 win against Azerbaijan was followed by a 29:21 win against Iceland, while Sime Simovski’s side capped off their performance with a 30:23 success against Turkey in the last round.

While the winners may have earned their berths, the best-placed second team had to sweat until the final game ended. As Lithuania had only two points and Greece boasted a negative goal difference, it was a battle between Ukraine and Iceland to become the fifth team to qualify for the next phase.

Ukraine avenged their loss against Slovakia to finish their group with a +31 goal difference, but it was Iceland who finally earned the fifth berth, with a +36 goal difference, mainly thanks to their final win 49:18 against Azerbaijan.

There will be at least 13 European teams participating at the 24-nation Women’s World Championship 2019.

France as the 2017 champions are already qualified; they will be joined by the three best-ranked teams at the Women’s EHF EURO 2018 and another nine teams which qualify through the European play-offs.


TEXT: Adrian Costeiu/jh
 
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