The Estonian men's national handball team begun phase two of the qualification round for the 2022 European Men's Handball Championship with a 28:31 loss to Austria.
The match played in Graz, Austria, began well for the Estonians as they took a 5:2 lead to start. Austria's first lead came after 12 minutes of action, as the hosts went up 7:6, after which they scored another three goals. The Estonian side responded well however, going on a hot streak of their own. The opening half of the game was tight and ended in a 16:16 tie.
The Austrian team kept a stable one or two goal lead until the tenth minute of the deciding half, when Tobias Wagner extended the Austrian lead to 23:20. Estonia scored two consecutive down 23:27 and was close to a third but they were unable to realize a one-on-one situation. Austria held their composure until the end and capped of the match 31:28.
Karl Toom was high-point man for the Estonians with 10 goals, Ott Varik added five and Kaspar Lees scored three goals. Tobias Wagner was the main scorer for Austria with seven goals.
Thomas Sivertsson, head coach of the Estonian national team, said: "No loss is every positive but there is certainly something to take from this game. We did very well on offense when six-on-six, we repeatedly forced them to alter their defense and scored successfully."
Estonia is in Group 2 of Qualification Phase 2 the European Men's Handball Championship qualification tournament, along with Austria, Germany and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Estonia's next match will be against Germany at home on Sunday, November 8 and the match will be broadcast on 4.15 p.m. on ETV.
The Estonian Handball Association (EKL) has decided to play the match without spectators. EKL secretary-general Pirje Orasson said: "We have been in daily contact with the Health Board (Terviseamet) and the latest recommendations to people and organizations are quite clear - any kinds of events and gatherings should be avoided. Just today (Wednesday - ed.) a record number of cases was announced."
"As of right now, the qualification match will take place and it is certainly a shame that such a historic event - a match against Germany - will not be open for sports fans. But we must consider the health of the athletes, organizers and spectators first and when assessing the situation as a whole, the board decided so," Orasson added.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste