European sides shine in Poland and Sweden
The preliminary round of the 2023 2023 IHF Men's World Championship, co-hosted by Poland and Sweden, featured strong performances from European teams - with six nations topping their groups and only North Macedonia missing out on the main round.
- Denmark made a good start to their title defence, winning all three preliminary matches by at least 13 goals
- EHF EURO 2022 champions Sweden were also in dominant form, with their narrowest preliminary round win being a 34:27 victory over Cape Verde and their biggest a 47:12 defeat of Uruguay
- Norway became the third Nordic side to top their group, thanks to a thrilling 27:26 victory over the Netherlands in the closing match; in the same group North Macedonia lost all three games and will now play the President's Cup
- EHF EURO silver medallists Spain, Olympic champions France, and Germany also came through the first round undefeated
- in group D, each of the three European nations lost one game - Portugal to Iceland, Iceland to Hungary, and Hungary to Portugal - but all three beat South Korea to eliminate the Asian side
- Iceland's Bjarki Már Elísson and Denmark's Mathias Gidsel head the top scorer rankings, both with 26 goals
Brilliant debut for Belgium
Belgium were the only side out of the 32 qualifying teams making their world championship debut in Poland and Sweden, but after shocking Tunisia with a magnificent 31:29 win, they are through to the main round.
The 'Red Wolves' began their maiden tournament with a 28:43 loss to Denmark in what could almost have been a home match for the defending champions, in Malmö. But they bounced back to stun the African side, and finished the preliminary round with a narrow 28:30 loss to Asian Championship silver medallists Bahrain.
They now progress to the main round, with a group including Croatia - a side Belgium lost to by only three goals in the EHF EURO 2024 qualifiers in October last year.
Belgium's neighbours the Netherlands are participating in a world championship for the first time since 1961, and looked strong in the preliminary phase, beating both Argentina and North Macedonia by 10 goals.
The main round takes place from Wednesday 18 January until Monday 23 January, with the top two teams in each group progressing to the quarter-finals in Stockholm and Gdansk.
Photos © Jure Erzen / Kolektiff Images