IndiaCoach: Lal Mohinder
Four years ago, at the previous edition of the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship, India made their debut and ended up in ninth place, saving something from their tournament in the Placement Matches after ending the group phase in last place, with five losses in five matches and the worst defence in the competition, 204 goals conceded in five matches, roughly an average of 41 conceded goals per game.
The Asian side is the true embodiment of an emerging nation with a huge population that is only starting to know handball, as proven by their participation in the IHF Women’s Junior and Youth World Championship in 2022. However, the men’s team still has room to grow as they are still waiting for their debut in any category in the IHF World Championship.
Still, the ambitions are high, especially after India finished 15th at the AHF Asian Men’s Handball Championship back in January 2022, when they lost all matches in the group phase, boasting once again the most porous defence with 123 goals conceded in three matches.
They managed to avoid finishing last in their continental competition, winning their last match against Australia (25:21). Still, it was a depleted Australian side which entered the game, and India took good advantage of that.
What India will try to do at Bulgaria 2023 is to better their ninth-place finish from Georgia 2019 at the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship, when they won both their Placement Matches, 39:38 against Ireland on penalties and 46:28 against Azerbaijan, underlining their penchant for scoring goals.
Like in every India team, the focus is on attack, with a fast-paced style deployed in every match, trying to surprise the opponents. However, the defence is lagging, and there will not be much experience as no player from the India national team is playing at club level.
Only two players are aged 23 or older, with right wing Ankit Ankit returning from the team that finished 9th in 2019, as he was the second-best scorer with 39 goals. Goalkeeper Kumar Atul is also one of the most experienced players in the squad, aged 31. Therefore, India will have a mountain to climb but could prove a tough nut to crack in a group also featuring Malta and Andorra.
Key players: Ankit Ankit (right wing), Sumit Sumit (left wing), Kumar Atul (goalkeeper)
History in the tournament: 2019: 9th
Group at Bulgaria 2023: Group A (Malta, Andorra, India)