PRELIMINARY ROUND REVIEW: All favourites have made it safely through the opening phase of the Men’s World Championship 2019, but four teams from Europe miss out on the main round
Nine European teams advance to main round
Three teams have eased through the preliminary round of the Men’s World Championship 2019 in Denmark and Germany, winning all their matches and taking the maximum amount of four points with them into the main round.
Croatia in Group B, co-hosts Denmark in Group C, and EHF EURO 2018 silver medallists Sweden in Group D were flawless in their five matches of the preliminary round (results), which ended Thursday night (17 January).
Defending world champions France and co-hosts Germany in Group A also remained unbeaten, but they drew against each other while Germany also dropped a point against Russia.
Main round includes nine from 13 European starters
Contrary to the last three World Championships, which had a knock-out phase after the preliminary round, this year’s tournament uses the ‘old’ format again. In the next round, the 12 remaining teams will play in two groups of six, with the two best-ranked teams from each group qualifying for the semi-finals.
All title favourites have advanced to the main round (match schedule), which starts Saturday and runs through Wednesday.
Nine from the 13 European teams which started the tournament are still in the race for the title; only Russia, Serbia (Group A), FYR Macedonia (Group B), and Austria (Group C) failed to qualify for the main round.
Group A: France, Germany, Brazil
France avoided a defeat against Germany thanks to a last-second equaliser from Timothey N’Guessan (25:25), but recorded all wins otherwise. Their biggest ‘win,’ however, was the surprise return from Nikola Karabatic. The star player, recovering from foot surgery and expected to miss the entire tournament, was added to the team for their last group match against Russia. Brazil surprisingly defeated both Russia (25:23) and Serbia (24:22) to take the third qualifying spot. The joined Korean team remained without points.
Group B: Croatia, Spain, Iceland
EHF EURO 2018 champions Spain and Croatia both faced few difficulties in their first four matches. Their duel on Thursday night decided about the group win, and Croatia took it with a 23:19 victory, thanks to eight goals by Zlatko Horvat. Iceland and FYR Macedonia battled it out for the third qualifying spot, and while the Macedonians were two ahead at half-time (13:11), the Icelanders, led by 10 goals from Arnor Gunnarsson, celebrated in the end, 24:22.
Group C: Denmark, Norway, Tunisia
Denmark delighted the home crowd in Herning by convincingly winning their group. In the last match on Thursday night, Mikkel Hansen scored a stunning 14 times to help the hosts beat second-place Norway 30:26. The battle for the third main round berth was tight with three teams in the mix: Tunisia, Chile and Austria. Ultimately, the African champions took the honours as they clearly defeated Austria 32:27 in the deciding game.
Group D: Sweden, Hungary, Egypt
Sweden topped the group with a perfect five wins from five matches, which included a narrow one-goal victory over Qatar. The Scandinavians downed Hungary 33:30 in the last game to confirm their top spot. Hungary also dropped points against Argentina and Egypt, but still finished runners-up. Egypt edged Qatar by one point for third place. Qatar had been upset by Angola in their tournament opener (24:23), a defeat which came costly in the end.
All photos courtesy of IHF
TEXT: EHF / ew
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