Iceland in third tier for handball Euro championship

04.05.2021 - 10:46
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 Mynd: RUV
The Icelandic national men’s handball team this weekend secured a spot at the 2022 European championship. Victory in the final two games would have secured first place in the group, but defeat in Lithuania on Thursday meant Iceland had to settle for second in the group—despite another ten-goal victory over Israel in Hafnarfjörður on Sunday.

The defeat on Thursday in Vilnius came at the end of a game Iceland spent on the back foot, behind by six goals earlier on, before bringing the match back to end at 29-27. The perhaps surprisingly tough game came in contrast to the first match against Lithuania in Reykjavík last November that ended in an Icelandic win with a huge 16 goal margin.

The match against Israel on Sunday went more to plan for Guðmundur Guðmundsson's team, ending 39-29 and marking the team's second ten-goal victory over Israel in the same week.

What comes next

Finishing first or second in the qualifying group makes a difference because the first-round groups at the main tournament next January are drawn from four different strength categories. On paper, at least, this will put stronger and weaker teams up against each other and avoid any groups being significantly easier or more difficult to compete in. 

Iceland is in category three of four, it has now been confirmed. The draw will take place on Thursday for the groups that will compete in January in Hungary and Slovakia. 

20 teams will be in the tournament thanks to finishing qualifying groups first or second (and the four best third-place finishers), plus the two host nations, and the two European championship finalists from last time. That makes a total of 24 teams, currently split, six per strength category. 

The categories have been decided based on success both at the last tournament and in the qualification campaign that ended on Sunday. Iceland finished 11th at the last tournament and were second to Portugal in their group this time round. All qualification group winners are in the top two categories. 

The Icelanders are ranked alongside Slovakia, Belarus, Czech Republic, France, and North Macedonia. 

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