14 Nov. 2022
The 2023 IHF Men’s World Championship is just around the corner. We will throw off the coverage of the competition by taking a comprehensive look at the eight preliminary round groups, analysing the teams and pointing out the patterns in their head-to-head records to get a glimpse of what to expect at Poland/Sweden 2023.
Group A is an interesting mix of teams, with two European sides, Spain and Montenegro, one South American side, Chile, and one Asian team, the Islamic Republic of Iran, who will be making their comeback for the first time since 2015.
The obvious favourites are, of course, Spain, one of the most consistent teams in the world in the last decade, that never finished lower than seventh place in the past five editions of the IHF Men’s World Championship and won three medals since 2011 – bronze in 2011 and 2021 and gold in 2013.
It might sound suprising, but Spain and Montenegro have never met so far in competitive matches, as Montenegro are just now starting to find a foothold on the world stage, returning to the world handball flagship competition for the first time since 2013.
Spain have dominated Chile, with a strong 37:16 win in the preliminary round at Spain 2013, when the South American side lacked the needed experience to contend for a good result. The Europeans have also won the only mutual match against the Islamic Republic of Iran 37:23 in the group phase at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Spain and Iran also met in a friendly game in January 2022, when “Los Hispanos” were preparing for the EHF EURO 2022, where they finished second, and Jordi Ribera’s side thoroughly dominated their opponents by taking a clear 36:22 win, despite having plenty of players on the field, who have not featured prominently in the squad.
“Los Hispanos” will be heavily favoured in the group, with their players bringing more depth and experience than any other side in the group.
Montenegro have known a resurgence lately, with five consecutive participations in the continental championship, the EHF EURO, where they finished 11th in 2022, their best-ever position, after securing their highest number of wins in a single edition of the competition with three wins in seven games,.
They are surely eyeing to improve their 22nd-place finish of the 2013 IHF Men’s World Championship, but they will need to progress to the main round, which looks achievable. They did not face the Islamic Republic of Iran so far in competitive matches but won the only game played against Chile 35:31 at Spain 2013, when the two sides locked horns in the Placement Matches 21/24.
Last but not least, Chile have met the Islamic Republic of Iran only once, at the 2015 IHF Men’s World Championship, where they conceded a 31:32 loss in the Placement Matches 21/24.
The South American side have thus lost all games played against their opponents in the group and now need to turn the tide at least against one side to progress to the main round, which would be a premiere for Chile.
The plucky South American team has changed their coach, with Aitor Etxaburu taking over the job from Mateo Garralda, who left for Egyptian club Zamalek SC. Still, they had never qualified for the main round, despite being present at each of the last six editions of the IHF Men’s World Championship.
Chile have always ended up in the President’s Cup, and their golden generation featured some changes, with line player Marco Oneto, the most experienced player of the side and their former captain, retiring after the Olympic Qualification Tournament in 2021.