Round 5 of the EHF EURO 2020 Qualifiers concluded on Thursday night. Ahead of the final round of matches this weekend, still 10 of the 20 qualifying spots for the finals tournament in Austria, Norway and Sweden are up for the grabs.
The third team to book their ticket for 2020 on Thursday, after France and Portugal did so in earlier matches, was Russia thanks to a 30:23 win in Italy.
While Montenegro can hope to snatch one of the four tickets for the best third-ranked teams after their win against Faroe Islands, Netherlands need something like a miracle on Sunday, despite the Dutch clear victory over Estonia.
GROUP 4Estonia vs Netherlands 27:33 (13:16)
Thanks to their second win against Estonia, Netherlands will finish third in their group. But as only points taken from the top-two teams count for qualifying, they need a clear win against Latvia on Sunday to keep the hopes alive.
Even though they were much stronger compared to their 35:25 drubbing in the away match against Netherlands, Estonia remain without a point. Thanks to the top scoring trio Andris Celmins, Karl Toom and Kristo Voika, who all scored six times, Estonia were on an equal level until the middle of the second half. But then the visitors pulled ahead from 20:17 to 30:23 to close out their win. Four Dutch players netted four times each.
GROUP 7Italy vs Russia 23:30 (10:14)
After their two sensational victories against Slovakia in Rounds 3 and 4, the series of Italian success came to an end on Thursday. But in contrast to the 34:20 defeat in the first leg against Russia, Italy had clearly improved. The hosts were still only one behind (9:10) in minute 22, and Russia had to fight hard to extend the gap to more than five goals after the break.
Eight goals from Dimitri Kiselev and the higher precision in attack were the keys for the crucial third Russian victory, which guaranteed them an EHF EURO 2020 ticket. Still on four points, Italy cannot overtake Russia, on seven, and will finish third. Russia will finish as runners-up behind Hungary, regardless the results of Round 6.
GROUP 8Faroe Islands vs Montenegro 21:24 (9:11)
Montenegro had been warned by the 24:24 draw on home ground against the Faroe Islands side. But again it was a tough piece of work for the Balkan team to take their second victory in this qualification after beating world and Olympic champions Denmark in Round 3.
On five points now, Montenegro are one point behind Ukraine and both teams will meet in a direct encounter on Sunday. A draw in this home game would be enough for Macedonia, as that would make them one of the four best-ranked third-place teams.
The match at Farum was on a quite equal level for most of the time. The Faroe Islands had the better start before Montenegro scored four unanswered goals for a 9:6 lead. The gap remained between one and four goals, but when they went 24:20 up with only four minutes to go, Montenegro knew that they had won the match.