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28/01/2016

Four teams, one dream: EHF EURO glory

PREVIEW: There is a lot at stake when the semi-finals of the EHF EURO 2016 take place in Krakow's TAURON Arena on Friday

Photo: Sascha Klahn / Uros Hocevar

Germany vs Norway and Croatia vs Spain are the – quite surprising – pairings which says that eventually two teams of Groups B and C from have made it to the semis.

Only one of the four teams – Germany in 2004– has won the EHF EURO before.

Spain and Croatia have been finalists, while Norway's best place to date is a sixth rank at the 2008 championship.

None of the players on court at the final weekend has won the EHF EURO. German goalkeeper Carsten Lichtlein was in the extended squad in for the EHF EURO 2004, but did not take to the court.

Semi-final I: Friday, 29 January 18:30 hrs: Norway vs Germany

The sixth rank at their 'home' EHF EURO in 2008 was the best result Norway's men's team achieved so far.

However, they can now turn the past two months into truly golden ones as the women's team has already won the World Championship in Denmark in December.

It was with the 29:24 win against France in the final main round match that Norway dethroned the defending champions and qualified for the semi-final.

Norway only lost one match at Poland 2016 so far and tied once – coincidently against Iceland (25:26), who eventually finished 13th and FYR Macedonia (31:31), the 11th ranked team this EHF EURO.

On the other hand they recorded wins against handball powerhouses such as Croatia (34:31), Poland (30:28) and France (29:24) on their way to the semi-final.

"We almost feel like in a fairy tale. It is unbelievable. When we came to Poland, our goal was to reach some points and get through the first round and now we are in the semi-final.

“When we advanced to the main round and beat Poland we knew everything was possible,” Norway's left wing Magnus said after the game against France.

Even though the head-to-head stats on competitive level speak in favour of Germany (four German wins, two draws and two Norwegian wins), Norway look back in delight to the last match they played.

In the main round of the World Championship 2011 in Sweden they beat Germany 35:25. The only EHF EURO encounter ended 22:22 at the 2000 event in Croatia.

Nevertheless Germany are full of confidence their victory against Denmark (25:23) extended theis streak to five consecutive wins at the EHF EURO.

“We can only be stopped by ourselves. We have no pressure now, we showed them all what we can do, so now we can dream of winning,” says right wing Tobias Reichmann

Semi-final II: Friday 29 January, 21:00 hrs: Spain vs Croatia

Both sides have reached an EHF EURO Semi-final already for the respective eighth time but never played against each other at this particular stage of the tournament.

Neither Croatia nor Spain have become European champions yet. Croatia made it to the finals in 2008 and 2010, Spain were finalists in 1996, 1998 and 2006.

Two years ago at Denmark 2014, both sides faced in the bronze medal match in Herning and Spain took a close 29:28 win.

At Poland 2016, Spain were expected to go far but Croatia were close to a main round exit, after they had only taken two points to the main round and lost to France 24:32,.

But courtesy of their unexpected 37:23 against Poland on Wednesday they squeezed past Poland and France and made it to the final weekend.

"It is like a dream. This is why everybody likes sports," Croatian left wing Manuel Strlek said.

The stats are in favour of Croatia. They have won 14 of 21 competitive duels including the EHF EURO 2012 bronze match; Spain only won six times, once a match ended in a tie.

Ahead of the game on Friday, Spain's Julen Aguinagalde keeps the expectations low.

"Croatia were in a very difficult position to get to the semi-final, but now they are there and have beaten Poland on their home court, so it will be very difficult for us."

written by Björn Pazen / ts