PREVIEW: The first Men's World Championship hosted by two nations will throw off Thursday, when Germany and Denmark open the 18-day battle for the 2019 world title
France lead 13 European teams in battle for world title
Defending champions France start their quest for a seventh world title when the Men’s World Championship 2019 gets underway in Denmark and Germany on Thursday (10 January).
Even without top star Nikola Karabatic, who is recovering from foot surgery, France are one of the main contenders to lift the trophy again, two years after they crowned their home tournament by winning gold.
France won four of the last five editions since 2009, only missing out on the world title in 2013 in Spain, when the home nation triumphed.
A year after winning EHF EURO 2018, Spain will be aiming for glory again, while teams like EHF EURO silver medallists Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Croatia are also expected to go far. And Germany have history on their side as they won gold when the worlds were last held in Denmark, in 1978, and again the previous time they hosted the tournament themselves, in 2007.
Among the 24 participants at the World Championship 2019 are 13 teams from Europe.
Hosted by two nations
It is the first time that the World Championship will be hosted by two nations. A total of six arenas will be in use for the 18-day event, each with a capacity exceeding 10,000 seats. Organizers are hoping to reach the 800,000-visitor mark, which would set an all-time attendance record for the competition.
Playing cities are Copenhagen and Herning in Denmark, and Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg and Munich in Germany. Hamburg’s Barclaycard Arena will host the semi-finals, while Herning’s Jyske Bank Boxen will be the venue for the bronze medal match and the final on Sunday 27 January.
Another first is the participation of a joined Korean team. Initially South Korea qualified as semi-finalists of the Asian Championship 2018, but on invitation by the IHF, a unified team from North and South Korea will enter the championship.
While the last three World Championships had a knock-out phase after the preliminary round, this year’s edition returns to the format used until 2011. After the preliminary round, the top-three teams from all four groups advance to the main round, where the 12 teams will be divided over two groups of six. Ultimately, the two best-ranked teams from these groups will qualify for the semi-finals.
Two matches on the opening day
Usually the host nation plays the opening match of a major event. Therefore the World Championship 2019 has two matches on the opening day: first up is Germany against Korea in Berlin, followed by Denmark against Chile in Copenhagen.
Germany will also face France, Russia, Serbia and Brazil in Group A. Two-time champions Spain are spearheading Group B, which further includes Croatia, FYR Macedonia, Iceland, Bahrain and Japan.
Denmark take on two EHF EURO 2020 hosts, Norway and Austria, and also Tunisia and Saudi Arabia in Group C. Sweden and Hungary are the only European teams in Group D, which also contains Qatar, Argentina, Egypt and Angola.
The preliminary round (match schedule) runs through Thursday 17 January.
TEXT: EHF / ew
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