2019 World Championship qualifiers first leg: Croatia and Serbia achieve big wins

Team week 1

This weekend brought a lot of action in national teams’ handball. Many SEHA countries and players were involved in the qualifying matches for the 2019 World Championship in Germany and Denmark. Croatia defeated Montenegro, Serbia was better than Portugal, Belarus and Austria drew and Macedonia beat Romania. All SEHA countries played at home, but Slovenia is the only one that did not record a win. 

Croatia - Montenegro 32:19 (17:10)
Perhaps easier than expected, the Croatians achieved a big win in Osijek. Montenegro missed many key players, including Vuko Borozan, Rade Mijatovic, Nebojsa Simic and Vladan Lipovina, but Croatia also missed Domagoj Duvnjak, and some other players due to injuries. The match was close for the first 20 minutes, but the hosts took control from that point. Zlatko Horvat scored 6, so did Strlek, and Cindric and Karacic combined for 9 goals to lead the way for Lino Cervar's men. This performance opened the path for Croatia to qualify for the WCh, but there 60 more minutes to be played next week in Montenegro.

Slovenia - Hungary 24:29 (14:13)
A tough loss for Veselin Vujovic's squad, who finished 3rd at the last WCh in France. They were far better in the first half, but could not regain the same rhythm in the second. It is a terrific result for Hungary, probably even better than they could have hoped for. Montpellier's Kavticnik scored 7 for Slovenia and Borut Mackovsek scored 3. Hungary saw two of their players get sent off- Banhidi and Sipos. They had three players that scored 6 goals: Bodo, Boka and Lekai. Slovenia need to win by 6 next week in order to qualify for the 2019 WCh. 

Serbia - Portugal 28:21 (14:10)    
Despite also missing some very important players like Djordjic, Stojkovic and Ivanisevic, Serbia achieved a commanding 7-goal win over Portugal. It was a very good defensive display for the hosts, who conceded only 21 goals in the first leg. Nemanja Ilic led the way with 6 goals, three other players scored 4 and Mijajlo Marsenic scored 3. Portugal can be a very tricky opponent, but Serbia proved their class in front of more than 3,000 fans in Nis. However, the job is not done, and there is another match to be played in Portugal to ensure that the Serbians qualify for the WCh. 

Belarus - Austria 28:28 (15:15)
After playing each other in group stage of the EHF Euro 2018, Belarus and Austria met each other again. It was a very close match, but it looked the Austrians were running away with it when they went up by 4, with less than 10 minutes to go. However, Belarus managed to crawl back into it to ensure a draw and decent hope going into the second match. Pukhouski led the hosts with 7, Shylovich had 5 and Baranau added 3. As usual, Bilyk led Austria with 7 goals, ensuring a good result for the second part of the double header, which will be played next week. 

Macedonia - Romania 32:24 (15:10)
It was a battle of two Spanish coaches as Raul Gonzalez and Xavier Pascual squared off in this one. The Macedonians were in firm control of the match for the entire time, taking a solid lead in the first half, and it continued to grow until the end. The hosts were heavy favourites entering the match, which was expected considering their team had players like Lazarov, Stoilov, Manaskov and many others. It is a good win for Macedonia, who can travel to Romania without much pressure for the second match, scheduled for the 13th of June.

In other matches, it is worth noticing that Czech Republic completed a comeback to defeat Russia 27:26. Both team's best performers were SEHA players- Hrstka (Tatran Presov) and Shishkarev (Vardar). Both wingers scored 6 goals, Horak also had 2 for the Czechs. Shkurinskiy scored 3 for Russia and Dibirov added 2 more.