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10.01.2017, 18:25
14 European teams vie for glory at Men's World Championship 2017
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PREVIEW: Defending champions France and Olympic gold medallists Denmark are the main contenders for the top finish at the World Championship which starts across France on Wednesday
 

14 European teams vie for glory at Men's World Championship 2017

For the next 19 days handball will be king in France. Across eight cities, 24 teams, 14 of them from Europe, fight for the golden trophy received by the eventual world champions.

Among them, hosts France are on the hunt to break their next records. They start their campaign against Brazil in Group A on Wednesday (11 January) in Paris. As defending champions, their victory at Qatar 2015 was their fifth and turned them into the championship's record winners, France are one of the tournament favourites.

However, things have changed. France's legendary coach Claude Onesta was replaced by Guillaume Gille and Didier Dinart and will act only as team manager now. Over the past few years, Onesta had initiated a slowly progressing transition, but nevertheless his team still remained among the world's best.

The hosts will be spurred on by huge audiences. More than 15,000 will attend the opening match, more than 11,000 will fill the arene in Nantes where France will play the remaining preliminary round matches.

In case they qualify for the Last 16 and quarter-finals, the organisers even hope for a new world championship spectator record. The football arena at Lille, where France would continue their campaign, seats 27,500 – and more than 17,000 tickets have already been sold for the matches there.

Of favourites and underdogs

But it is not all about France. Olympic champions Denmark (in Group A) and EHF EURO 2016 champions Germany (in Group C) are eager to lock their horns with the main contender.

While France chose to be placed in the tough Group A together with Olympic semi-finalists Poland, Russia, Brazil, Japan and EHF EURO 2016 semi-finalists Norway, Germany were drawn to the arguably easier Group C alongside Hungary, Belarus, Saudi-Arabia, Chile and Croatia.

“We are aiming for the top position, but it will not be easy even though we are regarded as the favourites,” said head coach Dagur Sigurdsson after the final test match, a 33:16 against Austria, on Monday.

Denmark, led by current World Handball Player and Paris Saint-Germain Handball star Mikkel Hansen, face 2015 silver medallists Qatar, Sweden, Egypt, Bahrain and Argentina in Group D.

Compared to their sensational second place two years ago, Qatar have lost several former key players, such as Zarko Markovic and Goran Stojanovic.

Nearly everything is new at EHF EURO 2016 silver medallists Spain. After they missed the qualification for the Olympic Games 2016, Jordi Ribera replaced Manuel Cadenas as head coach – and he started a rejuvenation with the major goal of peaking at the Olympic Games 2020 in Tokyo.

In Group B in Metz, Spain face tough European rivals such as Slovenia, Iceland, FYR Macedonia as weel as Tunisia. Angola are the clear underdogs in this group.

The first four teams of each of the four groups qualify for the Last 16 on 21 and 22 January which will be played in Lille, Paris, Montpellier and Albertville.

These four cities are also the venues for the quarter-finals on 24 January. The final weekend with the semi-finals (26/27 January), the bronze medal match (28 January) and the final (29 January) will be staged in Paris-Bercy.

Where to watch

Information on broadcasters in each country and a live streaming solution can be found here.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
 
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