Let the qualification games begin
Date: 11/4/2014 11:56 AM
Published by : Manuel Røsler
The university city of Leuven in Belgium plays host to the 2015 edition of the newly formatted European Mixed Team Championships and while the finals themselves are still over three months away, 28 teams across Europe will bid to join the five already qualified teams in the new group staged qualification events that take place across Europe this coming weekend.

Players from Germany (reigning champions), Belgium (tournament hosts), Denmark, England & Russia (ranked 1, 2 & 3 in Europe) will have the luxury of sitting back and watching events unfold over the weekend as all 28 teams play in seven qualification groups with only the group winner eligible to join Europe’s elite in Leuven in February.

Group 1 hosted by Slovenia

After group top seeds The Netherlands declined the opportunity to host the qualification group Slovenia were more than happy to oblige and as hosts have the luxury of deciding the host location. The Slovenians have clearly used this rule to their advantage by bringing the event to Lendava which is nestled in a remote part of the country on the Hungarian and Croatian borders.

While the trip itself is sure to be a logistical challenge for the travelling nations of Lithuania, Faroe Islands and The Netherlands the Dutch will be clear favourites to win with Eric Pang, Iris Tabeling, Mark Caljouw and Soraya DeVisch Eijbergen leading the lines.

Prediction: Dutch to travel to nearby Belgium for the finals with Slovenia and Lithuania to battle it out for second spot.

Pivotal Match: Men’s singles between Iztok Utrosa (Slovenia) & Kestutis Navickas (Lithuania)

Click here for the schedule of group 1.

Group 2 hosted by Czech Republic

The Czech Republic have taken up the challenge of hosting group 2 but even as hosts should lack an overall strength in depth to bring an overall five match fight to group favourites Scotland. The Scots have listed a strong team to travel to Prague with Gilmour, Bankier, Blair and Van Rietvelde all scheduled to make the direct flight to Prague which will mean as little time travelling as possible for the Scots.

Switzerland will also have a lot to say in the final destination of group honours with Sabrina Jaquet, who has been performing well on the circuit in recent weeks, alongside Huser and Schaller whose return from injury is a welcomed bonus for the Swiss.

Prediction: Scotland to cruise to group honours if they all travel to Prague with the host nation piping Switzerland for second and Latvia posing the ability to make an odd singles upset along the way.

Pivotal Match: A singles shootout between Merrilees (Scotland) and Koukal (Czech Republic) has bragging rights written all over it.

Click here for the schedule of group 2.

Group 3 hosted by France

If ever there was a ‘sure thing’ in badminton terms the likelihood of the French winning group 3 on home soil is surely it. Unlucky not to be in Belgium by default as one of Europe’s top nations the French jumped at the opportunity to host and barring disaster should canter to a group and do so with the luxury of resting some of their top players.
Austria, Israel and Belarus will serve to make up the numbers in the group with the Austrians getting the nod to take second spot.

Prediction: As easy as it gets for the French with Austria’s better strength in depth decisive for second spot.

Pivotal Match: Obernosterer or Wraber (Austria) V Zilberman (Israel) has an edge to it in men’s singles.

Click here for the schedule of group 3.

Article by Mark Phelan for Badminton Europe. All photos by BadmintonPhoto.
© All rights reserved.

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