PREVIEW: 28 European teams fight for the qualification to the U21 World Championship - Denmark vs Sweden expected as top duel
Seven tickets to Algeria up for grabs
Twelve European teams will be part of the 2017 Men’s U21 World Championship, hosted by Algeria from 17 to 30 July.
Five of them have already booked their tickets for this event: France, as the current men's U19 world champions, as well as Spain, Germany, Croatia and Norway, as the teams ranked first, second, fourth and fifth at the Men's 20 EHF EURO 2016 in Denmark.
The remaining seven spots will be decided in seven tournaments all over Europe. Group 3 at Macedonian capital Skopje has already been started on Wednesday with wins of the hosts against Poland (30:22) and Portugal against Turkey (40:27). The matches can be watched live here.
Thus, the sixth European participant will already be confirmed on Friday night.
All other tournaments will be carried out from Friday to Sunday, with an overall of 28 teams. Only the seven group winners will make it to Algeria.
You can follow all matches via live ticker here: ticker.ehf.eu
Group 1 is hosted by the Italian Federation at Chieti, but the hosts seem to be the underdogs against opponents like Netherlands (12th ranked at the U20 EURO) and Russia. Fourth team to be part of this tournament are Latvia. The matches can be watched live here.
In Group 2 at Pitesti (Romania) two Scandinavian top nations - Sweden and Denmark - are supposed to fight for a spot for Algeria.
2016 EURO host Denmark had unfortunately lost the 5/6 placement match against Norway after extra time last summer and thus have to go through the qualification. Romania and Bulgaria are more or less considered as underdogs.
After some highly strong results before, Slovenia missed a top position at the 2016 U20 EURO as 11th ranked team, and now will have a tough fight against Slovakia and Ukraine in Group 4, hosted in the Slovak city of Hlohovec, fourth participant is Kosovo.
Thanks to the home advantage at Gornji Milanovac, Serbia can hope for the ticket to Algeria in Group 5, where Iceland (7th ranked at the 2016 EURO, coached by legendary Olafur Stefansson) is supposed to be the toughest opponent. Besides, Lithuania and Greece are part of this tournament.
Three neighbours - host Austria, Hungary and Czech Republic - fight for the World Championship spot at Maria Enzersdorf. Only Hungary - finally 10th ranked - were part of last year’s U20 EURO. Fourth side are Montenegro.
Far north, in Torshavn on the Faroe Islands, group 7 will be played. Switzerland are supposed to be the favourites there after their ninth rank at the 2016 EURO, facing the hosts, Israel and Finland.
Defending U21 World Champions are France after beating Denmark 26:24 in the 2015 final in Brazil, Germany were bronze medallists.
TEXT: Björn Pazen / br
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