© Giorgio Scala / deepbluemedia

Montenegro, Hungary in semis for direct Rio qualification

The game exploded in the second half but Montenegro remained on the positive side of the score. Carried by two straight, identical driving, goals from Darko Brguljan and two more from man of the match Nikola Janovic in the final period, Montenegro defeated Italy 7-10 to stay in the race for the direct qualification to the 2016 Olympics as Italy will now have to qualify at home in Trieste (April 3-10) at the world Olympic qualication tournament.
The Italians got plenty of opportunities in Tuesday's match, especially in the first half as Montenegro throughout the contest struggled with numerous exclusions. The extra man play of Italy however was sloppy and the active Montenegrin defence got the better of it on various occasions in the first two quarters to keep the score down. The Montenegrins even took a slim lead through Antonio Petrovic who netted a counter attack shot from the right wing late in the period. The second session was different with both teams struggling to score despite plenty of opportunities. But as veteran Predrag Jokic did from the left wing on a man up, the Montenegrins took a 2-4 lead at half-time. The score started rolling in the second half though. First Stefano Luongo brought the Italians back with a deflected shot that went in behind outstanding goalkeeper Milos Scepanovic but Aleksandar Radovic, a force from outside this game scoring twice, netted one and top scorer Nikola Janovic scored his first to lift the advantage for Montenegro to 3. Who thought that was a big blow to Italy got mistaken. A pair of hits later the Italians came back to 5-6. Close to an equaliser, the game was on the balance. That was the time when Darko Brguljan stepped up. Scoring two driving goals that got his marker surprised, with 1.20 remaining and the 2nd one with just 5 seconds on the clock, he drove the Italian team and coach Alessandro Campagna mad. It meant a 5-8 lead for the Montenegrins with just one quarter to go.
In the final session it was Nikola Janovic who stepped up when it counted the most. The veteran was right there to first struck from the left wing on a man-up early in the quarter, for the 5-9 score, and 4 minutes later decided the game single-handedly. As Matteo Aicardi and Francesco di Fulvio had brought Italy back to 7-9 with still 5 minutes to go, Janovic hit beautifully from the left wing, well defended, cross-cage past Italy goalkeeper Stefano Tempesti. That goal proved a big blow as possible Italian comeback illusions were erased. The score went to 7-10 with 2.20 remaining. It proved enough to overcome foul trouble and two more tries by the Italians in the final minute, much to the delightment of the fired-up bench and coaching staff of the 2013 world's number 2, led by former great Vladimir Gojkovic. Montenegro advance to the semifinals and will face the winner of Hungary-Croatia for a spot in the final. Italy meanwhile will continue to play for 5th place.

Top scorer Nikola Janovic was satisfied and proud of his team: ''We proved that we are a good team, like we knew we are. We desereved this victory, and we are back with the top teams. It was a tough game, but we turned out on top thanks to a good performance of the whole team'', he stated post-game.

Hungary vs. Croatia

Giorgio Scala / deepbluemedia

The stakes were as high in the last quarterfinal as Hungary, seeking the Rio 2016 qualification spot, faced the already qualified side of Croatia. A strong tactical, defensive, showing by the Hungarians decided the outcome in their favour in this almost must-win situation. The 8-5 score was hard-fought but well deserved. A nice plan to disrupt Croatia's main offensive weapons, Sandro Sukno (going 0 for 3) and Maro Jokovic (1 for 6) worked out well with Sukno eventually being excluded with substitution after an alledged blow at marker Balazs Erdelyi. With 2 minutes remaining in the game at that point, and a 7-5 score, it looked to have determined the outcome. Especially when Marton Vamos delivered the dagger from a free throw in the next attack Hungary's victory was a fact. Croatia meanwhile, like Italy, are the main victims of the quarterfinal round now going head to head in the semis for 5th place, on Thursday.
Hungary captain Daniel Varga was very satisfied: ''Of course I am satisfied with the result but also with how we played and how we fighted for each other and our country. That was the difference today. We just wanted it more than Croatia'', Varga commented post-game. And on the defensive plan for this game: ''First of all we had to stop their shooters like Sandro Sukno and Maro Jokovic. I think we succeeded very well. In the end Sukno lost his head and that means the guarding was done well.''
Now a special semifinal match-up with Montenegro awaits with the winner claiming the only available qualification spot for the 2016 Olympics. Varga: ''It will be special game because a semifinal will have a bigger meaning and especially now that the winner qualifies to the Olympic Games. But we will simply look forward to beating Montenegro as the opponent and we will see the outcome'', he concluded.

Turkey vs. France

France remain in the race for 9th place at the 2016 European Championships. On day 10 of competition the French took over in the second half against Turkey for the 9-14 win. Especially the 0-4 run in the third quarter proved the team's superiority. It came after a surprising close first half where France just led 6-8 at the half. Things changed however after the main break as France scored 4 straigt goals including the last two by Enzo Khasz in the third session. That proved to be the decision, especially after Mehdi Marzouki was first to find the back of the next in the final period, although just after 5 minutes of play, to put France up 6-13. Mihajlo Korolija replied for Turkey scoring twice but Igor Kovacevic in between made sure France's seemingly comfortable win was not endangered as they will now meet the Netherlands in the semifinals for 9th place. With this win however, France is likely to have qualified for the Olympic qualification tournament in Trieste, Italy (April 3-10). Confirmation regarding that is expected later today.

Georgia vs. the Netherlands

The Netherlands reached the semifinals for 9th place thanks to a thrilling win over Georgia on penalties. Where the Dutch looked to have thrown away the game in the final minutes allowing 2 goals by Georgia, including the equaliser just 3 seconds before the end, by Georgia left-hander Damir Tsrepulia, Netherlands goalkeeper Eelco Wagenaar was the hero in the penalty shootout saving 2 attempts including the decisive one from Tsrepulia in the sudden-death phase of the series giving his team the 15-16 win. Wagenaar and his team-mates exploded upon his decisive save, realising the outcome could have gone either way.
The Netherlands, although by small margins, had led throughout most of the game but could not hold on to a seemingly decisive 7-9 lead midway through the final period. First Marko Jelaca scored from the right side at the end of the shotclock with just over a minute remaining and things got worse for the Robin van Galen coached side in the final seconds as Tsrepulia scored on a counter attack for the 9-9 score with just 3 seconds on the game clock. In the shootout the Dutch were even the first to miss as captain Roeland Spijker saw his attempt being saves by Georgia goalie Ivan Strujic. In the very last penalty of the regular series, which would have given Georgia the win, Dutch goalie Eelco Wagenaar made the save on a penalty from Revaz Imnaishvili. Then the series got into the sudden-death phase for 5 more shots before Tsrepulia's attempt was blocked by Wagenaar which meant the decision in the game as left-hander Lars Gottemaker had converted his attempt in the first of that pair. It means the Netherlands have reached their main goal by being very likely to have qualified for the Olympic qualification tournament, and will now play France in the semifinals for 9th place on Thursday morning.

Croatia vs. Germany

To conclude the first session, Germany ran away from Croatia in the 2nd half for the clear 9-20 win which has the team close to making it to the quarterfinals out of group B. The Germans now depend on the result of the France-Serbia match to determine whether they will finish 4th and advance. The match got back and forth in the first half with Germany leading 0-6 after the opening period but losing the second session 5-3. After the main break however the physical match was decided by the Milos Sekulic coached squad who, with the win, did what they could in their quest for the quarterfinals.

Italy vs. Spain

The top match-up in the group was an anticipated one as title contenders Italy and Spain squarred off for first place in the group. As expected it became a close one with Italy leading most of the time. The Fabio Conti coached side however was unable to walk away from their rivals and could only decide the outcome in their favour in the final minute. As Spain kept coming back the Italians finally took a 9-7 lead through a goal by centre forward Teresa Frassinetti with 6 minutes remaining. In the following minutes both teams struggled on offence walking into fierce defensive organisations. Spain tried and tried by Italy goalkeeper Giulia Gorlero and her team-mates stood in the way multiple times. When Roser Tarrago finally found the back of the net, though, there was just a minute and a half to be played. Here Spain centre forward Maica Garcia got her marker, Federica Radicchi out of the water with her 3rd personal foul, but saw her shot on extra man being saved 6 seconds later. When Spain tried again in the next seconds, Garcia was called for the offensive foul by referees which instantly ended the match as Italy could play out the clock securing their hard-fought but deserved 9-8 win now facing group A number 4 Greece in the quarterfinals. The dissatisfied Spanish side, unhappy with the last call, now take on Russia in a tough quarterfinal clash.

France vs. Serbia

Taking 3rd place in group A was France who held off home team Serbia 7-6 in the last women's match of the group stage, on Tuesday. The win for the French looked certain for most parts of the game but got very close in the final minute as the Serbian women, cheered for by the enthusiastic crowd, scored twice in a row to cut their deficit to just one (7-6) with still a possesion to get. However Boglarka Rudic decided to shoot early from the right wing, with still 12 seconds to go, as her shot was blocked and France could play out the clock. Therewith Serbia saw their chances for a quarterfinal spot being erased as France finishes 3rd, playing Hungary in the quarterfinals, while Germany takes 4th place meeting group A winners the Netherlands on Thursday.

2016 European Championships
Belgrade (SRB)

Kombank Arena

Programme and results

Tuesday, January 19:

Turkey vs. France 9-14 (3-4, 3-4, 0-4, 3-2)  - men (9th-16h place, match 11)
Turkey scorers: Halil Beskardeslar 3, Srdjan Aksentijevic 2, Mihajlo Korolija 2, Oytun Okman, Cemil Ozbakis.

France scorers: Enzo Khasz 3, Thibaut Simon 3, Mehdi Marzouki 2, Romain Blary 2, Igor Kovacevic, Ugo Crousillat, Michal Izdinsky, Manuel Laversanne.

Georgia vs. Netherlands 15-16 (2-1, 3-4, 2-4, 2-0; penalties: 6-7)  - men (9th-16th place, match 12)
Georgia scorers: Damir Tsrepulia 4, Marko Jelaca 2, Marko Elez, Mikheil Baghaturia, Konstantine Gegelashvili

Netherlands scorers: Luuk Gielen 3, Jorn Winkelhorst, Robin Lindhout, Lars Gottemaker, Roeland Spijker, Jesse Koopman, Thomas Lucas.

Croatia vs. Germany 9-20 (0-6, 5-3, 3-6, 1-5) - women
Croatia scorers: Emmi Miljkovic 2, Dina Lordan 2, Tereza Balic, Anamaria Brnas, Domina Butic, Petra Bukic, Ivan Butic.

Germany scorers: Claudia Blomenkamp 8, Bianca Seyfert 3, Gesa Deike 2, Claudia Kern 2, Lilian Adamski 2, Anja Seyfert, Jennifer Stiefel, Carmen Gelse.

Italy vs. Spain 9-8 (4-3, 2-2, 2-1, 1-2) - women
Italy scorers: Giulia Emmolo 3, Rosaria Aiello, Roberta Bianconi, Teresa Frassinetti.

Spain scorers: Laura Lopez 3, Judith Forca 2, Anna Espar, Roser Tarrago, Maica Garcia.

France vs. Serbia 7-6 (2-3, 0-0, 3-1, 2-2) - women
France scorers: Aurore Sacre 2, Lea Bachelier, Louise Guillet, Geraldine Mahieu, Marion Tardy, Michaela Jaskova.

Serbia scorers: Lara Luka 3, Boglarka Rudic, Ivan Corovic, Jelena Vukovic.

Italy vs. Montenegro 7-10 (2-3, 0-1, 3-4, 2-2)  - men (quarterfinal 3)
Italy scorers: Francesco di Fulvio 2, Pietro Figlioli, Michaël Bodegas, Christian Presciutti, Stefano Luongo, Matteo Aicardi.

Montenegro scorers: Nikola Janovic 4, Darko Brguljan 2, Aleksandar Radovic 2, Antonio Petrovic, Predrag Jokic.

Hungary vs. Croatia 8-5 (2-1, 3-2, 1-1, 2-1) - men (quarterfinal 4)
Hungary scorers: Denes Varga 3, Norbert Hosnyanszky 2, Balazs Harai 2, Marton Vamos.

Croatia scorers: Ante Vukicevic 2, Antonio Petkovic, Luka Loncar, Maro Jokovic.

Wednesday, January 20:

09.00: Malta vs. Slovakia - men (ranking 13th-16th place) - match 41
10.30: Romania vs. Germany - men (ranking 9th-12th place) - match 42
12.00: Greece vs. Italy - women (quarterfinal 4) - match 34
13.30: Netherlands vs. Germany - women (quarterfinal 1) - match 31
15.45: Hungary vs. France - women (quarterfinal 3) - match 32
17.15: Russia vs. 2B - women (quarterfinal 2) - match 33
18.45: Spain vs. Russia - men (ranking 5th-8th place) - match 43
20.15: Greece vs. Serbia - men (semifinal 1) - match 44

Thursday, January 21

09.00: Turkey vs. Georgia - men (ranking 13th-16th place, match 14)
10.30: France vs. Netherlands - men (ranking 9th-12th place, match 16)
12.00: L32 vs. L34 - women (ranking 5th-8th place, match 2)
13.30: L31 vs. L33 - women (ranking 5th-8th place, match 1)
15.45: W31 vs. W33 - women (semifinal 1)
17.15: W32 vs. W34 - women (semifinal 2)
18.45: Italy vs. Croatia - men (ranking 5th-8th place, match 18)
20.15: Montenegro vs. Hungary - men (semifinal 2)

N.b.: time mentioned is local time.

Current rankings (women)

Group A (final)

1. The Netherlands 5 - 15 pts
2. Hungary 5 - 12
3. Russia 5 - 9
4. Greece 5 - 6
5. Portugal 5 - 3
6. Turkey 5 - 0

Group B

1. Italy 5 - 15 pts
2. Spain 5 - 12 pts
3. France 5 - 9
4. Germany 5 - 6
5. Serbia 5 - 3
6. Croatia 5 - 0

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