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Balkan show-time in Spain

kire repr

Russia, Slovenia, Germany, FYR Macedonia, Hungary, Montenegro, Iceland, Belarus and Poland qualified on Saturday and Sunday 16 to 17 June for the 2013 Men's World Championship in Spain as the winners of the nine European play-offs. In total, 20 of 24 participants of the World Championship are known – three teams will qualify from the Pan-American Championships (18-25 June) and one team from the Oceania play-offs between Australia and New Zealand (22/23 June).

Before, Spain (organizer), France (defending world champion), Denmark (European champion), Serbia (runners-up of 2012 European Championship) and Croatia (bronze medallist of the 2012 European Championship) had qualified from Europe; Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt are the African participants and Korea, Qatar and Saudi Arabia had made their way from the Asian Championships.

The results summary of the European play-offs:

Czech Republic vs. Russia 27:31 (10:18) - first leg: 22:23 (12:11)
Portugal vs. Slovenia 26:27 (8:13) - first leg: 26:31 (10:11)
Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. Germany 33:24 (15:12) - first leg: 24:36 (7:18)
Belarus vs. Slovakia 24:25 (10:12) - first leg: 26:24 (12:10)
Austria vs. FYR Macedonia 30:27 (13:14) - first leg: 21:26 (10:16)
Poland vs. Lithuania 26:22 (13:13) - first leg: 24:17 (12:9)
Norway vs. Hungary 31:27 (14:13) - first leg: 21:27 (10:12)
Montenegro vs. Sweden 20:18 (11:9) - first leg: 21:22 (10:12)
Netherlands vs. Iceland 24:32 (12:15) - first leg: 27:41 (14:17)

Premiere for Montenegro: For the first time since the country split from Serbia the men's team has qualified for a World Championship – and continued on the way the women had paved with qualifying for the Olympics. Although current EHF Champions League winner Kim Andersson strengthened the Swedish squad, the former World Champions missed a World Championship for the second time after 2007 in Germany. Sweden was never in lead – and even missed some great chances to turn the tables at the score of 18:18. With their last two goals Montenegro managed to secure the biggest surprise of those play-offs.

A perfect first half and a temporary 15:4 in the second leg secured Russia a place in Spain. By winning the second leg clearer than the home game last week Russia avoided another failure after missing the 2011 World Championship and the 2012 Olympics. The Czech Republic – like 2009 and 2011 – again missed the qualification. Slovenia qualified for the World Championship in a highly sovereign manner: After the clear home victory the team of Boris Denic stood the pressure in Portugal and booked their ticket at the latest at the break of the rematch, when the aggregate lead was ten goals. It was a total disaster for Germany, but a disaster without consequences: After winning with a twelve goal difference on home ground Germany was close to elimination in Sarajevo being down ten goals in the final stage. Bosnia played a brilliant second half after the guests had been on the floor completely and lost their rhythm, pace and concentration. But despite a nine goal defeat Germany booked their ticket to Spain. Belarus had to shiver until the final second, but then they celebrated together with more than 12,000 spectators in Minsk. The 26:24 away victory in Slovakia was worth gold for the host, who nearly gave their fate from their hands on home ground – but the 24:25 was enough to make it through.

Despite the 27:30 away defeat FYR Macedonia qualified for the third time in history after 1999 and 2009 for a Men's World Championship. The five goal cushion from the first leg on home ground was enough for Kiril Lazarov & Co. to eliminate Austria. Thanks to two clear victories against their neighbour Lithuania, Poland made it to Spain – but it was a tougher rematch than expected for the host after the easy away victory last week, attended by more than 9,000 spectators. The 31:27 victory was not enough for Norway to make their way to Spain. As in the qualification for the 2011 World Championship in Sweden (against Slovenia), Hungary qualified after a highly close aggregate result. The second leg was quite equal until the final stage, again Laszlo Nagy played brilliantly.

After the first leg everything had been decided for Iceland – but on home ground the Dutch team played with more energy and passion although they knew that they had no chance. Iceland qualified for the 13th time for a Men's World Championship.