The Estonian men's national handball team will now almost certainly not qualify for the European Championship finals in Hungary and Slovakia next January, after losing 31-27 to Austria in its group 2 qualifying game in Tallinn Thursday evening.
The match, which took place at the Kalev Sports Hall, was the penultimate in the qualifiers and was a must-win for both teams to have a hope of qualifying for the main competition.
Estonia lies in fourth place and with two points, with one more game to go; the only way of rectifying the situation would be by beating group leaders Germany (10 points - two points are awarded for a victory - ed.), while Austria, now in third place with 4 points, would need to also defeat the second-placed team, Bosnia-Herzegovina (also 4 points). This would move Estonia up to third, but even then qualification would not be certain and would depend on how the third-placed teams in other groups fared in the last round.
The pace of Thursday's team was mostly dictated by the visitors, ERR's sports portal reports. Austria finished the half 18-13 up after an attack-focused Estonia left its defense often wide open, with Austria pulling off four essentially unopposed goals this way.
Estonia started the second half more strongly, and narrowed the deficit to just the one goal following a score by team captain Martin Johannson. However, the visitors found their form again, winning by the same margin of four goals that they had started the second half with.
Karl Toom was highest scorer for Estonia after finding the net nine times.
The final game of the qualification round takes place in Germany Sunday and will be broadcast live by ETV2 and on ERR's sports portal, starting from 6.50 p.m. Estonian time.
Editor: Andrew Whyte