Three teams left to fight for two semi-final tickets
December 13, 2016
The Netherlands, France and Germany are the only three teams that can still reach the semi-finals from Main Round Group 1 at the EURO 2016.
Germany secured a point against Spain, the Netherlands outplayed Serbia, and France robbed Sweden of their last hope for a semi-final berth.
By Peter Bruun
Spain vs Germany 20:20 (12:9)
Before the Match
Being without points in the main round, Spain were without any chance to qualify for the semi-final. There was nothing at stake for the Spaniards aside from an honorable performance.
While Carmen Marting & Co. could play without pressure, conditions were quite different for Germany. A victory for “The Ladies” could bring them extremely close to the semi-final.
The draw keeps Germany in the race for the semi-final, but for most of the match, they did not look like a winner. Yet, an improved defense formation in the second half of the match earned them one point. In the end, coach Biegler’s crew was even close to pull off a victory.
For a long time it looked as if it was Spain fighting for a semi-final berth and not the Germans. Maybe, the pressure of being so close to the round of last four was a bit too much for the young German players?
Anyway, Spain outplayed a slow paced German team for long parts of the first half. At the beginning, Alexandra Barbosa Cabral was the player who stuck out and later her teammates contributed as well, keeping the Spaniards on top.
Clara Woltering had a tough time in goal, while Dinah Eckerle had much better success in the second half. But Spain held on to a five-goal lead, until two German goals in the last minutes of the half made the break a little more bearable for Michael Biegler´s team.
Germany’s attack did not improve much after the break, but their defense did. They moved quicker and their tackles became more powerful.
Even though many poor German shots made it quite easy for Silvia Navarro to do great in Spains goal, Kim Naidzinavicius was able to score the equalizer (19:19) with eight minutes left to play, and less than a minute later, Dinah Eckerle provided her team with the lead, throwing the ball across the field into an empty net.
Still, Nerea Pena – who had an outstanding game – evened the score once again with four and a half minute left. It turned out to be the last goal of the match. In the last minute, Navarro saved a penalty from Svenja Huber, and Spain wasted their chance to record a victory after all.
While Spain can hope to cause even more upset in their last main round game against the Netherlands, Germany – now on five points – can look ahead at a “do-or-die” battle against the Swedish hosts, on Wednesday and hope for some support from Serbia or Spain.
Serbia vs Netherlands 27:35 (12:17)
Before the Match
It was last call for the Serbians, who have been a refreshing surprise in the tournament.
Apart from their defeat against Germany during the group phase, the Netherlands actually lived up to expectations, and with four points, they were in the same position as Germany and France, having the chance to take a big step towards the semifinals.
While the Netherlands did take the step towards the round of last four, Serbia was denied to advance any further in competition.
The very first minutes aside, the Dutch women had absolutely no problems controlling the match, and coach Helle Thomsen used the opportunity to rotate her entire bench.
From the get go, coach Thomsen had a few surprises in her backcourt line, as Maura Visser and Lois Abbingh were replacing Nycke Groot and Estavana Polman as playmaker and left back, respectively. And it did not take long, before Sannne van Olphen replaced Laura van der Heijden as right-back.
Making a long story short – all the adjustments in Team Oranje paid off. After an equal start, the Netherlands managed to change a 3:4 deficit into a 7:4 lead, and the Dutch dominance continued, when Groot and Polman came on the pitch after 15 minutes.
Groot & Co. built on their three-goal lead – 10:6, 12:7 and 17:11 before the two squads changed sides.
Serbia scored the first two goals after the break, reducing the deficit to three, but any hope they might have harbored fell by the wayside soon thereafter.
It did not take the Dutch long to reclaim their five-goal advantage, and towards the end, they even extended the goal differential to eight, effectively putting the match out of reach.
The Netherlands should be able for qualify for their third semi-final in succession, at a major championship.
After reaching the final of the 2015 World Championship and the round of last four at the Rio Olympics, it’s getting very close at EURO 2016, now.
The encounter with Serbia showed the tremendous depth of the Dutch national team – a key factor as the tournament progresses.
Now, the Netherlands have it in their own hands – a victory on Wednesday against Spain will move coach Thomsen’s crew very close to precious medal again.
Match of the Day
Sweden vs France 19:21 (10:12)
Before the Match
The big question was if a full Scandinavium could push Sweden forward, which was be absolutely necessary for” Tre Kronor” to keep their semi-final hopes alive?
Being the third team in the group on four points, France was also the third squad that could take a decisive step towards a place in the semi-final
A red card for France´s outstanding goalkeeper, Laura Glauser, almost turned the game upside down. However, Allison Pineau & Co. managed to weather the storm while taking a well deserved two-goal win.
France stunned the host, jumpstarting the match 4:0 with barely four and a half minutes played – Sweden’s coach Henrik Signell was forced to call an early timeout. Unfortunately, It did not help much.
The physical strength of the French crew seemed to be too much to handle for the Swede’s. France continued to stay ahead by two- or three goals for the rest of the first half, leading by two before the teams headed to the locker rooms.
Estelle Nze Minko was the dominant player during the first 30 minutes, scoring six of twelve, French halftime goals.
The match appeared to be over, once France were leading 19:14 with 13 minutes left.
On the other side, Johanna Bundsen in goal did her best to keep Sweden in the match. But as it turned out, a decision by the Russian referees triggered the rhythm of the game to change.
As Sweden´s young left wing, Olivia Mellergaard, reduced to 16:19 for Sweden with 10 minutes left, she got hit in the face by the foot of French goalkeeper, Laura Glauser. It was enough of a violation that the referees sent Glauser off the court for the rest of the time.
Fortunately, the harsh decision by the two Russians did not derail France any further; but it did make for an exciting finish. However, when Jamina Roberts did not hit the goal with 43 seconds left on the game clock, it was all over for the home team.
Scandinavium was far from being full, which was somewhat disappointing. Only 5,279 people watched the match, but at least, those who were there, created a wonderful atmosphere.
France is definitely a medal contender, sharing first place with the Netherlands (6 points).
Sweden won’t have anything to do with the fight for precious medal anymore and attendance on the final weekend in Gotheburg will suffer as a result of it.
Simply put – the Swedish team does not possess sufficient quality, to aim for more, right now. One “Bella” Gullden is just not enough!