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2019 Men’s World Championship 2019 Men’s World Championship
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Date: 6/15/2018

The second to last qualification event for the 26th IHF Men’s World Championship came to an end on Thursday June 14, with the nine places allocated for Europe decided via two-leg play-off matches played over one week. Iceland, Russia, Hungary, Austria, FYR Macedonia, Sweden, Norway, Croatia and Serbia were the sides to book the tickets to the World Championship in January 2019, following aggregate wins in their respective encounters.


One of the biggest surprises of the qualification was the elimination of 2017 World Championship bronze medallists Slovenia, who were defeated by Hungary 51:50 on aggregate. Playing at home is thought to be an advantage, but that was not the case in either of the clashes between these sides, as Hungary won 29:24 in Koper then Slovenia recorded a 26:22 victory in Veszprém.


Another shock was the defeat of EHF EURO 2018 silver medallists Sweden in their first-leg encounter with the Netherlands – who have participated in one World Championship, in 1961, and never qualified for a major international competition since. Sweden were the clear favourites ahead of the play-offs, but were in a dangerous position following their 24:25 loss to the Netherlands in the first leg. At home in Kristianstad, Sweden turned the tables, taking a 26:20 victory that meant a 50:45 aggregate win.


2017 World Championship eighth-finalists Iceland defeated Lithuania 61:58 on aggregate, with a 27:27 draw in Vilnius in the first leg before Iceland took a 34:31 win at home that secured their place at Germany/Denmark 2019. Fellow France 2017 eighth-finalists Russia pulled off a comeback against Czech Republic, losing the first match away 26:27 then earning a 29:21 victory in Perm to finish with a 55:48 aggregate win.


Following the trend of close first-leg matches, Austria and Belarus drew 28:28 in the opening encounter. Austria capitalised on the home advantage in the second leg, recording a 31:26 win and therefore a 59:54 aggregate victory.


Norway, FYR Macedonia, Croatia and Serbia all took clear wins in their first-leg matches. 2017 World Championship silver medallists Norway beat Switzerland 32:26, and though they lost the second match 30:33, the Scandinavian team qualified for Germany/Denmark 2019 thanks to a 62:59 win on aggregate. FYR Macedonia followed the same pattern – taking a 32:24 win at home in the first leg, then losing the second 25:26, but clinching their berth with a 57:50 aggregate result.


2017 World Championship semi-finalists Croatia defeated local rivals Montenegro 32:19 in the first game in Osijek, before losing by one goal, 31:32, in Podgorica to put the aggregate score at 63:51 – and take Croatia through to Germany/Denmark 2019.


Serbia beat Portugal 28:21 in the first match, in Nis, then the teams drew 25:25 on the final day of qualification matches. With the aggregate result of 53:46, Serbia booked the continent’s last available ticket to the World Championship.


The top scorer of the qualification play-offs was 2017 World Championship and EHF EURO 2016 and 2018 All-star Team member Sander Sagosen, who tallied 21 goals across the two matches for Norway. The second top scorer also came from the Norway-Switzerland pairing: five-time Bundesliga MVP Andy Schmid, with 18 for Switzerland.  


More information on the European qualification play-offs can be found on the official website.


Those 21 teams have qualified so far for the 2019 World Championship:


Host: Denmark, Germany

Defending champions: France

Europe: Spain, Iceland, Russia, Hungary, Austria, FYR Macedonia, Sweden, Norway, Croatia, Serbia

Asia: Qatar, Bahrain, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia

Africa: Tunisia, Egypt, Angola

Wild card: Japan


The remaining three World Championship participants will be determined at the 2018 Men’s Pan American Championship to be held from 16 to 24 June in Nuuk, Greenland.


Photo: Hungarian Handball Federation