Czech Republic – Iceland, match of group 3 qualification for advancement to the 2024 European Handball Championship, March 8, Brno. The joy of Czech players.
Brno – Czech handball players surprisingly defeated Iceland 22:17 at home in the third match of the European Championship qualification in a direct fight for first place in the table. The wards of Spanish coach Xavier Sabaté remained at 100 percent points after half of the four-man group and came close to advancing to the championship. Against the struggling Nordic favorite, defense and goalkeeper Tomáš Mrkva shone in Brno, three Czech scorers scored four goals each.
Sabaté's selection followed on from wins over Estonia and Israel in October and leads the group by two points ahead of Iceland, who hesitated for the first time. Estonia and Israel are still without a point, but they have Thursday's mutual duel to their credit. On Sunday, the Czech national team will play an away match in Iceland and will conclude the qualification at the end of April.
Two teams from each four-member group will advance to next year's championship in Germany, and they will be joined by the four best teams from third place. The Czech team is almost certain that they will at least fit in among those advancing from the third ranks.
“I said before the match that, in my opinion, Iceland belongs to the top six in the world. They have really top and amazing players. But we played as a team,” Sabaté told reporters. “It is a huge victory for us, it means a lot to us. It means that we are going in the right direction. We are going match by match. Today we will celebrate this victory, we will recover and we have another match on Sunday,” added the Spanish coach, who took over the Czech national team last year at end of February.
Iceland, which, unlike the home team, did not miss the World Cup in January, where it took 12th place, did not confirm the role of a clear favorite. Although the northerners led 2:0 and only conceded for the first time in the eighth minute, the Czech team dominated from then on.
Sabaté's selection of a series of six goals turned the score around and maintained the lead until the 27th minute, when the guests equalized at 10:10. But after the rest period, the Czechs took the lead in front of 2,800 spectators in the nearly sold-out Brno hall and took a 12:10 lead by halftime.
After the change of sides came the key moments of the match. In the 32nd minute, Zeman received a red card, but the Icelanders struggled in the end. The sixth team of the last European championship was silent from the 37th to the 52nd minute, thanks to Mrkvo, and the home team meanwhile created a decisive lead of 19:12.
The northerners then took a bit of work, but they could no longer dramatize the end. Mrkva conceded only 17 goals, which is one of the best results of the Czech team in defense since the division of the federation. He finished the match with a success rate of 45 percent. Four goals were scored by Kašpárek, Reichl and Klíma. The national team against Iceland followed up on the home victory from the European qualification in 2017.
“Everyone saw that our defense was at a top level. The best evidence of this is that a team like Iceland scored only 17 goals. Tomáš Mrkva he was amazing in goal, the work of the entire team in defense was incredible,” Sabaté said.
“The key factor was teamwork, team spirit. It wasn't easy at certain stages of the match, we had to work hard and the team always picked up. I'm proud of the players. It's incredible how this team trains, how they believe in themselves and how they're improving,” he added Spanish coach.
Czech Republic – Iceland 22:17 (12:10)
Czech Republic line-up and goals: Mrkva, Mizera – Hrstka 3, Piroch 2, J. Patzel, Štěrba 3, Kašpárek 4, Reichl 4, Vančo, Havran, Harabiš, Klíma 4, V. Patzel 1, Solák 1, Zeman, Režnický.
Most Iceland goals: Kristjánsson 7. Referees: Gubica, Milošević (both Crov. ). Seven-meter throws: 2/2 – 4/3. Exclusion: 5:3. ČK: 32. Zeman. Viewers: 2800.
Group 3 table: