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Ahead of their last chance, second ranked teams have homework to do

Final two rounds of the first qualification phase for the Men’s EHF EURO 2016 will throw off on Wednesday. This is the preview for the three matches of Round 5

There are groups in first qualification phase for the Men's EHF EURO 2016, but after four of six rounds have been played the constellation of teams looks strikingly similar. 

Before the final two rounds all three first ranked teams only need a draw to advance in their final games (each of against the respectice second ranked teams) – a quite comfortable situation.

But to have something similar to a final for the first rank in the group, on either Saturday or Sunday (15/16 June), the runners-ups first of all need to do their homework against the third ranked teams on Wednesday and Thursday (12/13 June).

If they do not win those encounters, they are already out of the race for first place. If they win, the next hurdle is right ahead, as all three top ranked teams play their final matches on home court.

The three group winners from this phase will progress to a knock-out phase where they will meet the three lowest ranked fourth placed teams from EHF EURO 2014 Qualification Phase 2 in two play-off matches, home and away, on 2/3 April 2014 and 5/6 April 2014.

The winners of these play-off matches will join the already qualified remaining participants for the EHF EURO 2016 Qualification Phase 2.

Group 1: Cyprus vs. Luxembourg; Wednesday, 20:00 hrs. local time in Nicosia

Cyprus have their fate in their hands, after first ranked Finland only drew with Luxemburg 24-all in round 4. If Cyprus beat Luxemburg and then win against Finland, they will make it to the next stage.

However, Luxembourg' morale will be boosted by the success of their newly crowned championx HB Esch, who made it to the Challenge Cup final as first Luxembourg club ever.

And Esch top scorer and Luxembourg international Martin Muller even promoted his career by signing a contract with German second division team Ahlen-Hamm.

The first leg was a hard-fought battle in which Luxembourg gave the victory from their hands, losing 16:17. Now the team of coach Adrian Stot is eagerly hoping for revenge. If they win at Nicosia, Finland will already be confirmed as group winners.

Group 2: Italy vs. Great Britain; Wednesday, 20:30 hrs. local time in Lavis

With only two points in their account, Italy do not only need to beat the British team, but also need to win against Greece (six points) on Saturday with at least seven goals difference after the 25:32 home defeat in the first leg.

The match against Great Britain does not seem to be such a high hurdle, as the British team has changed completely since the 2012 Olympic Games and cannot be compared with the squad, which managed to beat Italy one year ago.

Italy won the first leg 47:23, a clear sign of the difference in strength of both teams.

Group 3: Belgium vs. Ireland;  Wednesday, 20:00 local time in Tournai

Belgium rank four points behind Estonia and even lost the first leg against the Estonians 24:31 on home ground. Therefore they need to beat Ireland and then need to win at Estonia by eight goals – a really tough challenge.

The first leg against Ireland was an easy matter for Belgium after the break, extending the gap from 11:8 after 30 minutes to a final result of 28:12.

written by Björn Pazen / ts