22/01/2020

Who will win the battle of the top two in group I?

GROUP I PREVIEW: Croatia and Spain fight it out to decide who wins the group while co-hosts Austria aim to bow out with a victory

Spain will battle Croatia in their bid to finish top of group I in Vienna. Photo © Uros Hocevar / kolektiff

Reigning champions Spain and in-form Croatia go head-to-head on Wednesday in Vienna aiming to finish top of group I ahead of Saturday’s semi-finals.

Both teams have won all six matches so far and are already guaranteed a spot in the last four. The winners of the game will finish first in the group, while a draw would see Spain come out on top thanks to their superior goal difference.

With the top two through and Germany sure of third place, it is mostly pride that the other nations are playing for.

However, Austria will be aiming for a win which would guarantee their best finish at an EHF EURO. The co-host's previous best performance in the competition is 10th place, achieving that at EHF EURO 2010 when they hosted the tournament.

GROUP I

Croatia vs Spain
Wednesday 22 January, 16:00 CET, live on ehftv.com

  • each team goes into the match having won all six of their matches at EHF EURO 2020; both are currently enjoying their best ever winning sequence in the competition, with reigning champions Spain winning their last nine EHF EURO matches and Croatia their last seven
  • no nation at the tournament has scored more goals than Spain (200), or had more shots on goal (294)
  • Croatia lead the overall head-to-head record between the two nations, winning 15 games to Spain’s seven. They last met at an EHF EURO in 2016 when Spain won 33:29 in the semi-final
  • Zlatko Horvat is set to equal Igor Vori’s record of playing in 54 matches at an EHF EURO for Croatia. The right wing is three goals away from 150 at EHF EURO events
  • one player in the Croatia squad plys their trade in Spain: centre back Luka Cindric, who is currently on the books of Barça

Belarus vs Austria
Wednesday 22 January, 18:15 CET, live on ehftv.com

  • the game will be the 12th meeting between the two nations in competitive handball; both teams have won five each and one match has ended in a draw
  • right wing Robert Weber is 10 goals away from his 100th at EHF EURO events for Austria, while his teammate Janko Bozovic is nine goals shy of 50 in the competition
  • no Austrian player has been involved in more goals than captain Nikola Bilyk, having a hand in 71 of his team’s 169 goals (39 goals and 32 assists)
  • Belarus right wing Mikita Vailupau scored eight goals from nine attempts in the defeat against Spain – his best record at the tournament to date
  • Austria can record their best finish at an EHF EURO with a victory

Czech Republic vs Germany
Wednesday 22 January, 20:30 CET, live on ehftv.com

  • Germany lead the head-to-head record in the meetings between the two nations with four wins to the Czech Republic’s two. The teams last met at EHF EURO 2018 with the Germans winning 22:19
  • no player at the tournament who has scored more than 22 goals has a higher shot efficiency than German winger Timo Kastening, who has recorded 86 per cent shot efficiency, scoring 25 goals from just 29 shots
  • Czech captain Ondrej Zdrahala, who top-scored at EHF EURO 2018, needs just five goals to score his 100th in the competition
  • nine players in the Czech Republic squad play for clubs in Germany, including experienced left back Pavel Horak for THW Kiel
  • having not played a single second in Germany’s previous two matches, goalkeeper Johannes Bitter recorded a 54 per cent save efficiency with 15 saves from 28 shots in their win over Austria
written by Andrew Barringer / jh