Greece and Switzerland appear to be the strongest in Group B of the EHF EURO 2014 Qualification Phase 1, with both teams having played a part in EHF EURO 2012 Qualification Phase 2.
However, the Greek team took five points from six matches and only narrowly failed to reach their first ever EHF EURO, while Switzerland went home with the wooden spoon.
The Swiss nearly reached the finals of the 2013 World Championship but in their qualification play-off, helped by their top stars Andy Schmid and Marcel Liniger.
Liniger missed a last second penalty and the EHF EURO 2006 hosts crashed out.
Greek coach Georgios Kranakis can count on many players with German Bundesliga experience like Alexandros Alvanos and Georgios Chalkidis, but despite such stars his team missed out on qualification for the 2013 World Championship play-offs due to two defeats against Bosnia Herzegovina.
Kranakis can take heart from Greek results of previous years including a 26:24 victory over the Czech Republic in the EHF EURO 2012 qualification period.
They may too look to their recent domestic success for inspiration, Greek side, Diomidis Argous, becoming the first Greek team to win a European Cup competition, beating Wacker Thun in the finals of the EHF Challenge Cup.
Italy and Switzerland will be familiar with each other having met recently in the 2013 World Championship qualification last January. The Swiss team won on both occasions.
Tragedy for Italian hosts
Italy – hosts of EHF EURO 1998 – missed out on reaching Qualification Phase 2 of the EHF EURO 2012, losing to Latvia and Finland despite some strong performances from their top scorer Alejo Juan Martin Carrara.
The Italian squad will however be mourning the tragic death of their team-mate, Alessio Bisori, who died on 3 June 2012 in Bologna.
One of the youngest talents in the team, he was expected to play in the EHF EURO 2014 qualification event. His team will play with black armbands in tribute to their team-mate.
Final Olympic preparation for GB
For Great Britain, with their Serbian coach Dragan Djukic, EHF EURO 2014 Qualification Phase 1 will be an ideal preparation for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Two years ago Great Britain won 33:32 against Bulgaria in the EHF EURO 2012 Qualification Phase 1 which was a milestone for top star Steven Larsson and his team-mates.
However in pre-qualification for the 2013 World Championship the Brits stood no chance against Austria and Israel, losing all four matches.
EHF EURO History
Switzerland: (3 appearances at EHF EUROs) 2002: 13th / 2004: 12th / 2006: 14th
Italy: (1 appearance at EHF EUROs) 1998: 12th
Greece, Great Britain (0 appearances at EHF EUROs)