Surprise EHF EURO 2022 preliminary round concludes
19 Jan. 2022
The preliminary round of the Men’s EHF EURO 2022 in Hungary and Slovakia concluded in the capitals of the two hosts, Budapest and Bratislava, on Tuesday night, with the biggest shock of the group phase confirmed, as Hungary were eliminated after their 31:32 loss against Iceland.
Hungary, who went into the tournament eyeing their first medal in the competition, won only one game, against Portugal, losing the other two against the Netherlands and Iceland. The resulting third-place finish was not enough to proceed to the main round.
With Slovakia also eliminated, it is the first time since 2006 that none of the hosts progressed to the main round at an EHF EURO.
Six teams out of the 24 that started the competition – Denmark, France, Iceland, Germany, Spain and Russia – won all of their three games, starting the main round groups in Budapest and Bratislava with the maximum amount of points, two.
Reigning world champions Denmark boasted the highest goal difference (+30) after securing clear wins against Montenegro, Slovenia and North Macedonia in Group A. They are joined by surprise package Montenegro in the next phase, as the Balkan team won against Slovenia 33:32 in the last game of the group.
France, the reigning Olympic champions, were never in doubt of reaching the main round with clear wins against Croatia, Serbia and Ukraine, securing the second-largest goal difference in the preliminary round of the EHF EURO 2020, +22.
Spain, who extended their unbeaten run in the competition to 15 games, after having won the gold medal in the previous two editions, are also three for three. They won Group E with clear wins against Sweden, the Czech Republic and Bosnia and Herzegovina despite a serious rebuild underway, which saw key players retiring and influential right back Alex Dujshebaev missing the tournament due to a shoulder injury.
One of the underdogs that improved in the tournament was Russia, who won Group F with victories against Slovakia and Lithuania and an impressive outing against Norway (23:22), which sealed their best start in the competition since 2000.
Germany and Iceland also won their groups, starting the main round with two points, while the Netherlands produced the biggest surprise in the competition. Powered by the top scorer in the competition, right back Kai Smits, who scored 32 goals in the first three games – 11 more than any other player – including the game-winning goal against Portugal on Tuesday evening, the Netherlands side secured their first-ever main round berth and are looking increasingly like one of the teams on the rise in Europe.
The Netherlands join Croatia and Montenegro as the teams who will start Group I, due to be played in the brand new Budapest Arena, with zero points, while France, Denmark and Iceland start the next phase of the EHF EURO 2022 with two points. Group II, set to be played in Bratislava, consists of Germany, Spain, Russia (all with two points), Norway, Sweden and Poland (with zero points).
The main round will be played between 20 and 25 January in the two venues, with four match days of three games each.
The top two sides in each group will progress to the semi-finals in Budapest on 28 January, with the final and the bronze-medal game set to be played in the same venue on 30 January.
The three best teams not yet qualified will book a ticket for the 28th IHF Men’s World Championship in Poland and Sweden next year, joining the hosts and the reigning champions Denmark.
More information on the event can be found on eurohandball.com.
Photos: EHF / kolektiff / Jozo Cabraja, Stanko Gruden, Axel Heimken, Uros Hocevar, Anze Malovrh, Nebojsa Tejic