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Crunch time for six teams in EHF EURO 2016 Qualification

PREVIEW: Three intermediate play-off double-headers from 2 to 5 April will decide which nations can continue dreaming of a spot a the final tournament in Poland

Photo: SHV

For the first time in the EHF EURO Qualification history an intermediate phase takes place between the first and the second qualification period for the final tournament in Poland.

This new phase determines three teams that will join another 25, who are already qualified, in the second - and final - qualification phase en route to the EHF EURO 2016.

Estonia, Greece and Finland have come as group winners through the hardship of the first phase to qualify for these play-offs, while Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Switzerland have to play these extra matches because they were the three bottom ranked teams following the EHF EURO 2014 Qualification.

All matches can be followed via the EHF live ticker.

It is the well-known mix of expectations, hope and pressure that reigns in the different teams' camps.

Arguably the nations who played the second phase of the EHF EURO 2014 Qualification, Switzerland, Romania as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina, are the ones with more international handball experience and might be regarded as favourites.

However, their opponents' morale is boosted by the fact that they already played a successful first qualification phase for the EHF EURO 2016 - and in Greece's case also a successful campaign in the World Championship Qualification.

Romania aware of Finland's strengths

Romania hope that their journey will eventually end in the first successful qualification for an EHF EURO event since 1996, but they treat the first opponents on that road, Finland, not lightly at all.

"At this moment, Romania can't say they are definite favourites against any other team in Europe," says head coach Eliodor Voica.

"We went on and played with that attitude in the World Championship qualifiers against Cyprus last year and we nearly lost."

Despite the fact they did not qualify, Finland's coach Mikael Källman sees the experience his team gained in the World Championship Qualification as an advantage.

"I'm in a really good spirit because in most of these matches we played quite well. Against Romania we have to be disciplined in attack and get the timing right for an ice-cold shock. Thus we also prevent our opponent's counter attacks," he said in an interview with the Finnish Handball Association.

Bosnia and Herzegovina with high morale

For their play-off against Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina hope that the winning streak they started in their successful World Championship 2015 Qualification campaign with five wins from six matches will continue.

"I hope that our winning streak will continue. We will try to use all the possible chances. Our biggest advantage is that we play the second match at home in Cazin," says goalkeeper Benjamin Buric.

Team captain Muhamed Toromanovic adds: "We have to show fighting spirit from the very beginning to confirm that we are the better squad."

But Greece will not go down without a fight.

"We all know that Bosnia are a very good team with players competing abroad. They a group with natural skills and tall players," says right wing Dimitrios Tzimourtos.

"We have to be focused, we have to play with an attacking mind and strength defencee. We need all the help we can possible get to give us momentum for the win."

Rolf Braack underlines importance

Ahead of the play-off between Switzerland and Estonia, Swiss head coach Rolf Braack has made his players aware of the opponents' strengths and the matches' importance.

"We have respect for our opponents, who have some outstanding individual players such as Mait Patrail and Dener Jaanima in their ranks.

"These matches are of utmost importance for us as we will only play attractive qualifiers, if we are succcesful," Braack said in an interview with the Swiss Handball Federation.

"We have a motto for this match which is 'whoever defends better and converts more easy chances will win.'

"We want to play our high-speed handball for the entire 60 minutes, and we will try to exert pressure on our opponents, backed by our aggressive wall-like 6-0 defence," said Braack.

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