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11.06.2019, 10:13
Unbeaten Hungarians top the power ranking
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FEATURE: Excluding the three already qualified teams, here are the top 10 in-form sides heading into the final pair of EHF EURO 2020 Qualifiers
 

Unbeaten Hungarians top the power ranking

With just two rounds of EHF EURO 2020 Qualifiers left to play, it is incredible to think that 17 of the 20 available places at next January’s championship are yet to be confirmed.

There is plenty to play for in each of the eight groups, which makes this latest power ranking all the more interesting. Excluding the three already qualified teams, Germany, Croatia and Slovenia, here are the top 10 in-form teams in line for qualification.

10. Bosnia Herzegovina

They have not done it the easy way, with two of their three victories coming away from home, but Bosnia Herzegovina have given themselves a chance of reaching their very first EHF EURO. Their final two matches against Belarus and Czech Republic will be far from straightforward, but with in-form players such as Benjamin Buric and Nikola Price, they should produce the one result needed to see them through.

9. Iceland

After being involved in April’s most dramatic double-header against North Macedonia, Iceland are still not guaranteed qualification. They reacted very well to losing in the last second at home in Round 3, to snatch a point in Skopje four days later, which is no mean feat. The young team, led on court by the brilliant Aron Palmarsson, should see off Greece and Turkey this week and they are an exciting prospect for the final tournament next January.

8. Czech Republic

Much like fellow Group 5 team Bosnia Herzegovina, the Czechs have not had a typical qualification campaign. Away victories over the Bosnians and most recently Belarus have kept them in the hunt for their second straight EHF EURO and they should have more than enough to see off Finland away in Round 5.

7. Montenegro

What a turnaround from the opening two rounds, where Montenegro drew at home to Faroe Islands and lost to Ukraine. Their home victory against freshly minted world champions Denmark will live long in the memory of Montenegrin handball fans and it has propelled them right back into contention to qualify for EHF EURO 2020.

6. France

Despite the Round 3 setback against Portugal, the 2018 bronze medallists have looked very comfortable in this qualification campaign. France bounced back well from the defeat to beat Portugal by nine in Round 4, putting them on the verge of a ticket to the final tournament. With the consistently high level this team plays at, it is difficult to remember just how young the vast majority of their squad are and it makes for exciting times ahead for the French.

5. Switzerland

With Andy Schmid leading by example (no.2 in the current 20 for 2020), Switzerland look destined to reach their first EHF EURO since 1996. Top scorer Schmid has been ably supported by the likes of Marvin Lier and goalkeeper Nikola Portner as this fairly young squad is coming of age at the right time.

4. Denmark

At January’s World Championship, Denmark looked to be on another handball universe, but it did not look like that in Round 3. Montenegro humbled the champions in the first encounter of their double-header, before Denmark stepped up the gears at home, cruising to an 11-goal win in an almost flawless performance. That defeat to Montenegro may have been the kick up the backside they needed to finish qualification in style.

3. North Macedonia

The entire nation is on a handball high after HC Vardar’s wonderful victory at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 and the national team are well poised to ride that wave towards qualification. Earning three points in the double-header against Iceland was a strong response to their shock loss to Greece, now Kiril Lazarov and his teammates are back in the driving seat in a tight Group 3.

2. Portugal

2019 has been a great year for Portuguese handball so far. At club level, Sporting reached the VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16, Porto the EHF Cup Finals and Madeira the Challenge Cup Final, while the national team overcame the mighty France 33:27 in Round 3. Besides the result surprising many in the handball world, it was a huge step in the direction of qualification. With three wins so far, Portugal are one of the in-form teams at the moment.

1. Hungary

They are the only unbeaten side which has not yet qualified, but Hungary should not have to wait much longer. An impressive 25:19 victory away to Russia in Round 3 showed us all just how strong they are and the team, which is undergoing a transition, is not letting age or experience get in the way of producing some solid results at the highest level.


TEXT: Chris O'Reilly/jh
 
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