Sweden and Poland to host mouth-watering Men’s World Championship
Here to brighten up the dark January days is a feast of international handball, featuring an array of top players competing for world glory.
17 European nations prepare to compete for the 28th IHF World Men's Handball Championship, held in Sweden and Poland on 11 to 29 January 2023, and here are some things to note before the action begins.
Among the 17 European nations taking part in the championship are the two co-hosts Sweden and Poland and reigning champions Denmark.
Spain, France and Norway earned their right to compete through their performances at EHF EURO 2022, while nine teams came through qualification. Netherlands and Slovenia, who were beaten in the qualification play-offs, were handed a reprieve through wild cards awarded by the IHF.
Playing system and host cities
The tournament will take place in nine cities (four in Poland and five in Sweden): Kraków, Gdańsk, Katowice, Płock, Stockholm, Malmö, Gothenburg, Jönköping and Kristianstad.
The 32-team tournament has been split into eight groups of four teams, from which the top three progress to the main round. The four main round groups will feature six teams, competing for two quarter-final places each.
The quarter-finals and semi-finals will be split between Poland and Sweden, with the final day of action taking place at the Tele2 Arena in Stockholm.
Belgium are the only side to make their debut at this level, making it a special event for them and neighbours Netherlands, who will compete for the first time since 1961.
Cape Verde and the USA had their campaigns at Egypt 2021 cut cruelly short due to COVID cases and will be hoping to make up for that this month. Cape Verde had a single match two years ago, so they will see this championship as a true debut, while the US team will be aiming to mark their first appearance since 2001 with a milestone victory.
Reigning EHF EURO champions Sweden have their sights set on a rare double gold in front of their own fans and they certainly have the squad to do so. The majority of their heroes from 2022 are still in the squad, bolstered by Mikael Appelgren in goal, hoping to put his dire run of injuries behind him at last.
Besides them, perennial contenders Denmark, Norway, France and Spain all appear to have the tools necessary to compete for a medal, while the major non-European hope Egypt will have to deal with the loss of their superstar Yahia Omar.
Iceland stand out among the many “dark horses” tipped by fans and experts. With Magdeburg duo Gisli Kristjansson and Omar Ingi Magnussen show sublime form at club level and Nantes’ Viktor Hallgrimsson returning from injury in the nick of time, they have the stars and squad capable of matching anyone on their day.
Some groups appear to be very straightforward on paper but nothing is certain at this level. However, a group where nothing is certain is Group B, featuring hosts Poland, who will face France, Saudi Arabia and Slovenia.
Group D has a familiar feel to it as Iceland, Portugal and Hungary will meet in the first round for the second year in a row, this time with South Korea also in the mix.
Germany and Serbia could go deep in this championship but will have to impress early on in Group E, also featuring Qatar and Algeria. While Norway are favourites in Group F, Netherlands, Argentina and North Macedonia will all fancy their chances of progressing to the main round.