by Simon Daish
Paul Drinkhall was the hero in England’s first encounter, claiming a brace of wins to lead the team to a 3-2 success in Ukraine. A mighty 3-0 performance at home to Estonia followed – in the closing group match Sam Walker struck an all-important win to help England to a profitable trip to Italy, completing his country’s perfect record in Stage 2.
Ovidiu Ionescu, Hunor Szocs and Cristian Pletea proved the winning combination in Group 1 as Romania opened its account with a comfortable victory over Lithuania before guaranteeing its place at the top of the group with a successful 3-1 home display against Serbia.
In Group 2 the plaudits went to Denmark as Jonathan Groth, Anders Lind and Kasper Rasmussen emerged undefeated in Stage 2 beating both Switzerland and the Netherlands 3-0.
The Czech Republic also prevailed in all three of its Group 4 fixtures including a crucial 3-2 away win in Hungary. Turkey claimed narrow 3-2 victories against Finland, Luxembourg and Bulgaria to finish atop Group 5.
Finishing in the group runners-up positions and consequently moving through to the main event are: Serbia, Netherlands, Ukraine, Hungary and Luxembourg.
The successful teams from Stage 1 were: Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, Belgium, Sweden, Spain, Poland, Croatia, Belarus, Slovakia, Greece and Russia. As host nation France gains automatic entry for Nantes 2019 while defending champions Germany also make the list.