Let the qualification games begin (Group 4-7)
Date: 11/6/2014 1:27 PM
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 4 hosted by Estonia

Sweden will be clear favourites to win group 4 outright due to overall strength in the five match formatted ties. Estonia’s home court advantage will certainly work in their favour but it is difficult to see them getting over the line against the Swedes as they will have to rely heavily on Raul Must and Laura Vana. The ace up the Estonian’s sleeve might be the return of veteran Kati Tolmoff who has shown in recent months that she can still cut it at the top level on the BEC Circuit.

Sweden with Hurskainen (pictured), Nordh, Ruponen, Wengberg, Fabbeeke and Widh amongst their ranks will likely have too much in reserve for the hosts.

Prediction: Sweden to top group but Estonia will not hand it to them easily. Italy to finish third with Luxembourg propping up the table.

Pivotal match: Must (Estonia) V Hurskainen (Sweden) or Widh (Sweden) V Tolmoff or Vana (Estonia)

Click here for the schedule of group 4.

Group 5 hosted by Iceland

The one group where geographical separation and travel logistics just might play a major part in the final group outcome. After Spain & Turkey passed on home advantage Iceland stepped in to host which is a welcome relief for one of Europe’s more isolated nations.

The Turks will have to spend more time travelling than they will on court just to get to Reykjavik and even for the Spanish and Croatians there will be at least one connection en route to Iceland in what will most likely be a day’s travelling.

Will this work out for the home nation? It just possibly might!! While not laden with individual stars Iceland are laden with team spirit and an overall strength across the five disciplines even though that strength might be a level below Spain or even Turkey’s best players.

In the end if Spain bring their best players which should include Marin and Corrales and if their men rise to the occasion then Spain should on paper top the group. Turkey, if they want to win, can win but Bayrak will have to find some of the form that took her to a medal at the 2014 INTERSPORT European Championships in April.

Prediction: Spain to scrape through to Belgium. Iceland will fight and cause problems for all don’t be surprised if Croatia with Durkinjak, Hölbling, Poznanovic and their up and coming junior Maja Pavlinic upstage them all and cause the biggest upset on qualification weekend.

Pivotal match: Pavlinic (Croatia) V Bayrak or Yigit (Turkey)

Click here for the full schedule of group 5.

Group 6 hosted by Ireland

As top seeds in the group Ireland elected to host. On paper the group is a clear two horse race between the Irish and Bulgaria with both nations only separated by a handful of points in the tournament ranking list.
On paper is one thing but the reality may be slightly different as Bulgaria will travel to Dublin without the Stoeva sisters and more importantly Linda Zetchiri. A lot of the pressure will subsequently land on the shoulders of Petya Nedelcheva as one of only two females travelling to Dublin.

The Irish will be led by the inform Scott Evans in singles who may even be called on to partner Sam Magee at men’s doubles. Chloe Magee will anchor at women’s singles and mixed alongside her brother Sam and in a five match format look to have the potential to take the three games needed from Bulgaria.

Prediction: Ireland to top group but only after a severe scrutinising from and understrength Bulgaria. Norway and Slovakia to take up the slack and fight it out for the minor places.

Pivitol match: Chloe Magee (Ireland) V (Petya Nedelcheva (Bulgaria) Two players only separated by a handful of spots at the business end of the world ranking list. A must win for Nedelcheva if Bulgaria are to have a chance.

Click here for the schedule of group 6.

Group 7 hosted by Poland

The Poles as is their right have chosen to host and in doing so will make not only the on court battles difficult for their opponents but also the organisational logistics of getting there. The town of Arlamow is not synonymous with badminton and quick look at the map will reveal that Hungary, Wales and Finland will have to travel to the Ukrainian border before even a shuttle is hit in anger.

This aside the Poles will be slight favourites and should still have too much fire power for their opponents and their men in particular are seasoned veterans who will take no on court prisoners.

Finland will feel they are in with a real shout of doing some damage in Poland but will need to find a way of unlocking the Polish traditional doubles dominance should they wish to travel to Belgium in February.

The Finnish singles can succeed but a lot will depend on which version of Ville Lang travels to the remote corner of Poland. Wales will threaten in singles but ultimately come up short in doubles while Hungary should prove to be the whipping boys of the group but in Laura Sarosi have the potential to have the most successful player of the weekend.

Prediction: Probably the tightest group to call which could come down to the women’s doubles selection in the Poland V Finland match. Finland to win both singles and Poland to cruise in men’s and mixed doubles. A potential women’s doubles between Lindholm/Nystrom (Finland) and Agnieszka Wojtowska (Poland) and any one of her team mates is a flip of a coin match. In that case Poland to take it with Wojtowska’s experience and the remote home court advantage.

Pivotal Match: Ville Lang (Finland) V the improving Michal Rogalski (Poland)

Click here for the schedule of group 7.

Article by Mark Phelan for Badminton Europe. Photos by BadmintonPhoto.

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