08 Nov. 2021
The long road to the 28th IHF Men’s World Championship in Poland and Sweden 2023 has started with the European Qualification Phase 1, as eight from the 16 teams entered the fray last week.
The 16 teams who earned their right to play in the Qualification Phase 1 were divided into four groups of four teams each, with all four teams in Group 1 playing a full competition with home and away matches. The three other groups take place in a tournament format at one venue, with two teams having already earned safe passage to the Qualification Phase 2.
Group 2 took place in Vantaa, Finland, as the hosts and Estonia secured their berths for the next round of the European Qualification Phase, despite facing a sturdy challenge from 2021 Men’s IHF/EHF Trophy winners Georgia.
Banking on their home court advantage, Finland won the group with two wins and a draw, as they boasted both the best attack and the best defence in the three-day tournament.
They were already overwhelming favourites after taking a 35:30 win against Estonia in the first round of the tournament, virtually securing the qualification berth after the 29:29 draw against Georgia in the second round. Their 38:22 drubbing of Great Britain in the last match all but secured the first place, preserving their unbeaten status.
“We have a lot of young players and a lot of new things. This left a very positive picture. We played three matches in three days with good results and at the same time developing the team. Of course, team development will continue.
“The development was already on display and when the young players were given responsibility, they also took it and want to step up. That is a great thing for all Finnish handball,” said Finland’s coach, Ola Lindgren.
The second berth for the Qualification Phase 2 was secured by Estonia, who won against Great Britain (34:22) and overwhelmed Georgia in the decisive game (31:27), after a strong outing from right wing Jurgen Rooba, who scored 10 goals.
The British side, who is back at top level after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, finished fourth in the group, with zero points.
The top scorer of the tournament was Finnish left wing Benjamin Helander with 28 goals in the three games, relying on his experience after signing for German Bundesliga side Rhein-Neckar Löwen this summer.
The first two of the six rounds were also played in Group 1, where Greece have confirmed their favourite status with two wins against Belgium and Turkey.
The Greek side secured a 29:27 win against Belgium, which was doubled down on Sunday, 7 November with a crucial 24:20 win against Turkey. AEK Athens’ right wing, Dimitrios Tziras, recorded 14 goals in the two games, propelling his side to the win in both matches.
Turkey are now second in the standings, after taking a 25:23 win against Kosovo in the first game, while Belgium and Kosovo follow suit, after earning a point thanks to their 28:28 draw on Sunday.
The next two rounds are set to take place between 5 and 9 January, with Greece entering a doubleheader against Kosovo, while Turkey and Belgium face off twice.
Groups 3 and 4 will also be played in a tournament format in January 2022. In Group 3, Romania will be the host country, as Cluj-Napoca welcomes Israel, Cyprus and Moldova between 7 and 9 January. Group 4 is due to be played between 14 and 16 January, in Torshavn, as hosts Faroe Islands will be challenged by Latvia, Italy and Luxembourg.
The eight qualified teams will join the sides already qualified to the Men’s EHF EURO 2022 in the Qualification Phase 2. Hosts Poland and Sweden and reigning champions Denmark have already secured their berths for the 28th IHF Men’s World Championship in January 2023.
More information about the European qualification for the 28th IHF Men’s World Championship can be found here.
Photo: British Handball