Mixed fortunes for favourites on opening day of Beach Handball EURO 2019

Some sunshine, some rain: the weather in Stare Jablonki during the opening day of the Beach Handball EURO 2019 reflected the results of the tournaments’ favourites on Tuesday.

While record EURO gold medallists Croatia got off to a strong start in the men’s event, defending champions Spain (against Germany) and 2017 EURO silver medallists Russia (against Serbia) both had to recover from early defeats.

Title-holders Norway made no mistake in the women’s competition, but the hosts and 2017 EURO runners-up, Poland, lost both their matches.

The preliminary round will be concluded on Wednesday. All matches are streamed live on ehfTV.com and the scores can be followed on the dedicated beach handball liveticker.

Dramatic shoot-out finish

In the first session of the men’s event, Germany battled their way past 2017 EURO gold medallists Spain in a dramatic shoot-out finish, and later they added a 2:0 win over Norway to take the overnight lead in Group A.

Spain recovered by beating Romania 2:0, and Norway also won their other two matches – against Romania and Turkey.

Denmark dropped the second set against Portugal, but won the match 2:1, in an otherwise flawless start to their campaign in Group B. The Scandinavians added clear wins over both Slovenia and Serbia to lead the group with three wins from as many matches.

They also occupy the top-two spots in the top scorers’ standings, with Simon Moss (48 points) and Martin Vilstrup Andersen (47) the most productive players on the opening day.

Russia was upset in their opener by Serbia (2:1) but the 2017 runners-up responded with a clear win over Portugal.

Croatia are ahead in Group C, as the record champions eased past Switzerland and Italy in their two matches of the day. Ukraine looked like topping that result, as they won twice and led by a set in their third match but lost that duel with Switzerland in a shoot-out.

The only unbeaten team in Group D is Hungary. However, the 2017 EURO bronze medallists needed a shoot-out to get the win against both Poland and France, who triumphed in their other two matches. Poland finally gave the home crowd something to cheer as they beat Sweden in the last match of the day.

A clean sheet after the opening day

Most favourites in the women’s event have a clean sheet after the opening day, with the exception of Poland. Two defeats have left the 2017 silver medallists firmly under pressure in Group B.

Poland were beaten by both Hungary (2:0) and Portugal (2:1), leaving the hosts with no room for error on Wednesday when they need to deliver against France and Cyprus to navigate their way into the main round.

Portugal are sitting top of the group with three wins from as many games. They also beat France and Cyprus as Cristiana Morgado scored 47 points to lead the top scorers’ rankings after the opening day.

Elsewhere most teams that were expected to be strong duly lived up to their billing.

Defending champions Norway did not drop a set against Croatia or Romania to take an early lead in Group A. Netherlands also recorded two 2:0 wins – against Romania and Turkey – but the Dutch lost a tight third match after a shoot-out against Croatia.

World champions Greece are coasting in Group C after three clear wins, against Switzerland, Slovenia and Italy. Spain, the 2017 bronze medallists, are also unbeaten after their two matches.

Denmark have their nose in front as the only unbeaten team in Group D. They beat Ukraine 2:0 and came from a set down to take a 2:1 win over Germany, who triumphed in their other two matches to be in second place, ahead of Ukraine and Russia, going into the concluding matches of the preliminary round Wednesday.

Photos: Uros Hocevar / kolektiff / EHF

TEXT: Eric Willemsen / ts