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Date: 6/8/2017

Europe’s national teams are ready for the final stage of qualification for the 23rd IHF Women’s World Championship in Germany, with the play-off matches to determine the remaining nine places allocated to the continent beginning on Friday.

As hosts of the Championship, Germany are automatically qualified, while Norway secured their place when they won the 2015 title in Denmark. The Netherlands, France and Denmark claimed the three spots available from the continental championship, when they ranked second, third and fourth at the EHF EURO 2016 in Sweden last December.

Now, 18 teams prepare to take to the court for a two-leg play-off series with the aggregate winner of each pairing booking the ticket to Germany 2017. The 18 nations contesting the remaining places include 2016 Olympic gold medallists Russia, 2015 World Championship bronze medallists Romania, and Rio 2016 quarter-finalists Spain and Sweden.

“Romania is the only team that has participated to all editions of the World Championship until now and we want to keep the tradition,” says 2010, 2015 and 2016 World Handball Player of the Year, Cristina Neagu, who was MVP, All-star left back and top scorer at Denmark 2015.

“Our team has suffered a lot of changes lately. We have a lot of young and inexperienced players but we'll give our best to qualify and participate in the World Championship in Germany.”

The nine pairings for the play-off stage are as follows:

Montenegro vs Belarus
Italy vs Serbia
Russia vs Poland
Hungary vs Slovakia
Romania vs Austria
Ukraine vs Spain
Croatia vs Slovenia
Czech Republic vs Turkey
FYR Macedonia vs Sweden

Each team will play one home and one away match as part of the two-leg series, with the first-leg games taking place on June 9 and 10, and the second leg played from June 13 to 15.

The nine successful European teams will join six nations from Africa and Asia already qualified: Angola, Cameroon, Tunisia, China, Japan and South Korea. The three teams to represent Pan America will be decided at the 2017 Pan American Women’s Handball Championship from June 18 to 25.