Portugal and Slovenia celebrate EHF EURO 2024 berths
Nine teams have qualified for EHF EURO 2024 so far, with Portugal and Slovenia joining the other seven sides who had previously sealed their spots, after the two teams clinched their respective fourth wins in EHF EURO 2024 Qualification this evening, with Portugal overcoming North Macedonia, 32:27, while Slovenia beat Montenegro, 37:30.
In one of the most balanced and entertaining games of the week, Croatia snatched a draw after a last-gasp comeback against the Netherlands, 25:25, after the Dutch side failed to score any goals in the last ten minutes of the game.
Portugal vs North Macedonia 32:27 (15:11)
Portugal extended their best-ever winning streak in the EHF EURO Qualifiers to six matches after a commanding game against North Macedonia. Despite missing key right back Francisco Mota da Costa, Portugal delivered an excellent start to the game, creating a healthy cushion, which they kept throughout the whole match. Back Filip Kuzmanoski had a 10-goal outing, but North Macedonia’s attack had a meagre 32% efficiency, with turnovers plaguing Kiril Lazarov’s side, which suffered 18 turnovers. Eventually, Portugal sealed a 32:27 win, which translated into Paulo Pereira’s side earning their third consecutive berth for the EHF EURO, as they built an unassailable four-point advantage over North Macedonia and Türkiye, as both sides now cannot leapfrog Portugal in the standings.
Croatia vs Netherlands 25:25 (14:15)
The situation in the group has been turned upside down, with Greece leading the standings, with six points, followed by Croatia and the Netherlands, with five points each, after the two teams drew in Osijek, 25:25. It was a true rollercoaster of a match, with the lead changing hands several times in the second half, despite the Netherlands boasting a flawless start, with a 8:3 lead. But Croatia, being their usual selves in defence, delivered a great performance in the second half, when the Netherlands’ main weapons, Luc Steins and Kay Smits, were silenced, as the guests failed to score a goal in the last nine minutes and 56 seconds.
Smits finished the game with four goals and is the second top goal scorer of the EHF EURO Qualifiers, with 31 goals in four matches, but was unable to tip the balance the Netherlands’ way. Croatia’s new coach, Goran Perkovac, will still look for his first win after the doubleheader against the Netherlands, but both sides have big chances to progress to the tournament in Germany next January.
Slovenia vs Montenegro 37:30 (18:16)
It was a perfect evening for Slovenia, who earned their fifth EHF EURO place in a row, after dominating Montenegro for the second time in four days, scoring 37 times, but still well behind their record of 47 goals set against Bulgaria in 2007. Blaz Janc and Domen Makuc, Barça’s pair in Slovenia’s line-up, were outstanding, combining for 16 goals in the match, with Janc leading the way with 10 goals, jumping to seventh place in the top goal scorer standings, with 24 goals in four matches. Montenegro still have fate in their own hands, despite the two losses against Slovenia, but new coach Vlado Sola will have to go back to the drawing board, after conceding two losses against Slovenia in his first two matches.
First of all, I would like to thank Koper and the fantastic crowd that breathed with the boys. Together we created a beautiful handball celebration. It was a tough, manly match. We were more convincing this time, but we still have to keep improving and focus on our game