Sweden avoid upset in Romania
Despite the home-court advantage, Romania was unable to spring a surprise against much more renowned rival. Home team edged the low-scoring first half their favour 9:8, falling to a narrow defeat from Sweden 25:24 (8:9). This defeat will mark a 3rdconsecutive loss for Romania, who entered play-offs hoping for a fresh start with a new coach. Regardless of a good showing today, maintaining the positive atmosphere in and around the dressing room will be a priority for newly installed coach, Christian Gaudin.
Although the slight advantage will be in Sweden’s favour after avoiding an away defeat, the second match, played in Sweden will be all-or-nothing occasion for both teams. Romania will go from strength to strength having a lot to prove in a bid to make their effort count. Four-time World Champions, Sweden will go out with a positive game-plan, and an expectant fan-base, knowing as little as a draw will see them through to the final showdown in Qatar come January.
Elsewhere, it was Russia who took revenge from Lithuania 30:22 (14:11) for their shock elimination in 2013, which saw Igoropulo and friends miss out on the 2013 World Championship in Spain. The neighboring states showed no love lost, as Russia ensured no second-guessing to their victory from early on. Russia closed in on the first half maintaining a 3-goal gap at the end of the first period, 14:11. Half-time deficit proved too much for Lithuania to get back into the match, allowing Russia to further their lead in an incisive second half (16:11, the second half score).
This win will be a huge step towards Qatar for the Russian team, who will now have to guard against complacency, going into their next game with an eight-goal advantage. Lithuania will certainly feel a lot less positive when they take on Russia one week from now, knowing only an extraordinary home-court performance will see them within chance of reaching the 2015 World Championship in Qatar.
TEXT: NEMANJA SAVIC