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Date: 4/8/2016

The IHF Men’s Olympic Qualification Tournaments began in Gdansk (POL) with London 2012 Olympic Games quarter-finalists Tunisia easily beating South Americans Chile in the ERGO Arena before hosts Poland looked strong in their five-goal win over FYR Macedonia in second game of the opening day.

Chile vs Tunisia 29:35 (12:17) – ERGO Arena, Gdansk, Poland

Tunisia put one foot in Brazil with a six-goal win over the South Americans at the ERGO Arena in the opening match of six Olympic Qualification games in Gdansk, Poland.

With their influential Polish-based club player Marco Oneto watching from the stands due to injury, Chile were always struggling against a strong Tunisian side who made the quarter-finals of the last Olympic Games, at London 2012.

Led by the precise and lethal Oussam Boughanmi, who scored 11 goals and was named best player of the match, Hafedh Zouabi’s side could not move away from their opponents until the final few minutes of the opening half, as Chile made a real go of it, finding themselves just two-goals down (14:12) with less than 140 seconds of the first 30 minutes remaining.

Even though Tunisia were two men down thanks to two-minute suspensions, Chile could not capitalise with weak shots and were unlucky to hit the post, but the dangerous Boughanmi struck home a 7m at the buzzer to make it a five-goal lead for the African side (17:12) going into the break.

The first half had been a straight shoot-out between the Chile golden boy Rodrigo Salinas, who scored seven strikes in the first 30 minutes (11 in total), and Boughanmi, who scored nine with which the damage was done.

The half-time rest seemed to inspire Tunisia immediately as they came out fighting and went eight goals up (22:14) after just five minutes of the second period and with a third of the match left they were home and dry with an eight-goal cushion (26:18) at 40 minutes.

You could be forgiven for thinking that Chile would give up, but they kept the score respectable and came back slowly to come within just six goals at the final buzzer. In fact – the second half was a close affair (18:17 to Tunisia).

Tunisia now know a win against either FYR Macedonia in their next game or against the hosts in their final game on Sunday should be enough to get on the plane to South America, while Chile have the exact opposite scenario – a near-impossible task of beating the hosts on a Saturday night.

A loss will be devastating, just like the form of Boughanmi, who the Macedonians will be studying video tape of this evening.

Best Player of the Match, Presented by adidas: Oussama BOUGHANMI (TUN) – left wing

Poland vs FYR Macedonia 25:20 (13:9) – ERGO Arena, Gdansk, Poland

In front of a sold-out impressive ERGO Arena, hosts Poland more than lived up to the pressure of being a home side in their all-European tie as they beat a Macedonian side by five goals (25:20).

Despite the clear scoreline, the game was anything but easy for Talant Dujshebaev’s side who were looking to put the pain of their EHF EURO 2016 campaign behind them as they sought to qualify for their first Olympic Games since Beijing in 2008.

That left back Michael Jurecki was named player of the match later with just four goals clearly showed this defensive battle was tough going on the players involved, but was a handball spectacle for the 10,000 noisy home fans – with a sprinkling whose hearts are in Skopje – inside.

The scene was set before throw-off as the Polish national anthem was faded out almost immediately after starting to allow an a cappella rendition from the home fans – a powerful show which had maybe got to the team during their European Championship campaign on home soil just over 10 painful weeks ago.

FYR Macedonia were left frustrated by their early ill-discipline as Poland raced to a 3:1 lead thanks to saves from Slawomir Szmal in goal and the big 110kg pivot Stojanche Stoilov sitting in the naughty chair on the side of the court after getting an early two-minute.

His expression was short-lived as his side made it all even at 4:4 in the eighth minute thanks to the first of eight strikes from the FC Barcelona wonderman Kiril Lazarov – if he repeats that feat in the two remaining games of this tournament the right back will be over 1,000 international goals (1,001 – currently on 985).

Another suspension hurt the Macedonians again and with 15 minutes on the clock Dujshebaev settled his troops with a team time-out (9:6) as he then saw his side go four-up (12:8 and 13:9) which it stayed at the break.

The former double-winning IHF World Handball Player of the Year (1994, 1996) would have been impressed by what he saw after the break – his side went six up (16:10) with 37 minutes gone and Michal Jurecki was clearly the heartbeat of the side, breaking down play, winning penalties and generally corralling his side – Lazarov tried the same, cutting a lonely figure at times standing at the end of the bench shouting encouragement, but one man cannot play all 60 minutes.

Seven strikes from Jurecki and Karol Bielecki from the penalty spot highlighted the difference between the two teams not only in goals, but discipline.

As the match entered the last 10 minutes, Poland were cruising at +8 (23:15) but their mental fortitude to kill the game off - lacking at EHF EURO 2016 - came back to haunt them as with four minutes of the match remaining the Macedonians were within four (23:19) thanks to a pair of strikes each from Goce Georgievski and Lazarov.

But again came the two-minute punishments for the visitors as Ace Jonovski was sent for a sit down, and as Bielecki sunk the resulting penalty, the home side breathed a sigh of relief as a win puts them at the airport in the departure lounge for Rio 2016.

Poland face Chile tomorrow (Saturday 9 April) knowing a win and they are Rio-bound while the Macedonians face a tricky tie against Tunisia in an interesting win-at-all-costs match-up.

Best Player of the Match, Presented by adidas: Michal JURECKI (POL) – Left Back

For further information on the Rio 2016 Olympic Qualification Tournament in Gdansk, visit the Polish Handball Federation mini-site HERE.

You can also follow the events from Poland on Twitter (@ZPRP_official),Facebook and Instagram (@handball_phf).