24 Jan. 2023
Tele2 Arena in Stockholm is ready to take over the 28th IHF Men's World Championship. In the first quarter-final, defending champions Denmark will face the lucky Hungarians.
Denmark have the opportunity to become the first nation to win three consecutive world titles and their first obstacle in the knock-out stage is Hungary.
The Hungarian team are in the second quarter-finals and will try to redeem themselves for an up-and-down performance in the first six matches.
Co-hosts Sweden start their quest for the final weekend in Stockholm against the only non-European team among the top eight – Egypt.
Glenn Solberg's boys have set clear goals ahead of the 28th IHF Men's World Championship, and so far they are living up to the dream.
On the other hand, Egypt faces yet another Scandinavian country in the quarter-finals in a quest to reach their second-ever World Championship semi-finals. At Egypt 2021, they were stopped by later champions Denmark after a crazy penalty shoot-out.
- 18:00 CET Denmark vs Hungary
Denmark have been powerhouse on the handball scene for a very long time now, and in the last eight World Championships, they missed the final weekend only twice.
Although Denmark have five victories in six matches at Poland/Sweden 2023, they have not always impressed. The reigning champions had a somewhat easier group, winning without a sweat against Belgium, Bahrain and Tunisia and scoring 37 goals per match on average.
Nikolaj Jacobsen was not that impressed by the performance in the main round – a draw with Croatia (32:32) and a 33:24 win against the United States of America. But Denmark showed what they are made of in the clash for the top of the group against Egypt. Now they are ready to face Hungary as favourites and continue their 25-matches unbeaten streak, which started at the 2019 Men's World Championship. However, going in with that role against a team that has nothing to lose can be dangerous.
"I think we can play freely on Wednesday, as in the previous matches against the Danes, when not many were expecting us to beat them or draw. We have to approach this match in the same way. We have nothing to lose, but we can achieve great success", said Hungarian left back Patrik Ligetvári to nemzetisport.hu.
Indeed, Hungary have reached their primary goal of being among the top eight teams and securing a spot in the Olympic Games Paris 2024 qualifications. If something could describe the team at the 2023 Men's World Championship, it would be a rollercoaster ride.
Chema Rodríguez's team beat the Republic of Korea effortlessly, made an incredible comeback against Iceland after trailing by six until the 40th minute of the match, looked lost on the court against Portugal, could not keep up with Sweden, had a great second half against Brazil and passed the 40-goal mark against Cape Verde waiting for their fate to be decided by Portugal and Sweden.
Hungary are the only team among the top eight teams with two defeats at the World Championship and they grabbed the last quarter-final ticket thanks to the Swedish team. This will be their eighth quarter-final appearance since 1958, and they have progressed further only twice – in 1986, when they won the silver medal, and in 1997, losing to France in a bronze-medal match.
Can Hungary be a surprise of Poland/Sweden 2023 and stop Denmark's perfect streak? Handball has already proven in the past that everything is possible. Denmark will particularly have to be careful of good Hungarian play with the line players - Miklós Rosta and Bence Bánhidi netted 47 goals in total.
The Hungarians will definitely have to cap off their best performance at the World Championship to overcome the vast experience of the Danes, their good mixture of youth and experience and stalwart players like Mikkel Hansen, Mathias Gidsel and Niklas Landin, among others.
Head coach Jacobsen additionally invited Niclas Kirkeløkke to join the team, as he said to the haandbold.dk: "We are facing an absolutely decisive match and I would like to have some extra options defensively. Here, Niclas can contribute with his qualities."
This will be the 11th time these two sides meet at the World Championship, with Hungary having a lead in their head-to-head – 6 wins, while Denmark beat them five times and one time ended in a draw. In the most recent event, Denmark defeated Hungary 25:22 at the 2019 Men's World Championship in the main round phase.
- 20:30 CET Sweden vs Egypt
Sweden, together with France and Norway, are the only unbeaten team in the World Championship, buoyed not only by the performance on the court but also by the atmosphere in the stands. One of the perks of co-hosting the world flagship handball competition.
After racking up a maximum of six points in the group phase of the competition, Sweden continued with good work and a high-paced level, leaving no hope for their opponents in the main round. Even when they had a secure place among the top eight teams, they did not calculate and rest against Portugal, but gave their best and made their fans proud and happy in Gothenburg.
Finishing as runners-up at the 2021 Men's World Championship after being defeated by Denmark, they have an opportunity to get their hands on the gold on home ground, with the possibility of meeting the Danes in the finals again.
Sweden don't have a player among the first 15 names on the top scorers' list, but that is their strength. Team play. Eric Johansson leads the way with 27 goals, Hampus Wanne is at 25 and Jim Gottfridsson netted 19 times with 36 assists. When you add great goalkeepers to the mix, it is no wonder they are favourites again this year.
"It doesn't matter who scores. I know how good all the players are individually and there is no individual performance that surprises me", said best centre back at Egypt 2021, Gottfridsson, for the Swedish Handball Federation.
Egypt were off to a good start after an important nine-goal win against Croatia in Group G and had a perfect streak until the last match in the Main Round Group IV when they ran into Denmark. The Danish side was eager to perform better after a 32:32 draw against Croatia, and Egypt walked right into it. Mainly into Niklas Landin.
"We got a good lesson. Our strengths and weaknesses came out", said Yahia El-Deraa, according to the handbollskanalen.se.
However, Sweden will not have an easy task in the Tele2 Arena on Wednesday. It will be a tough match, with very physically demanding times in defence. Yahia El-Deraa, Ali Muhamed (Zein) and Mohsen Mahmoud will be key links in the Egyptian attack with their one-on-one duels. The trio's tally stands at 69, almost 39% of all Egyptian goals at the event.
Sweden and Egypt met seven times at the World Championship, but never in a knock-out phase. Six out of those seven encounters went to the Swedish side, while the 2015 Men's World Championship Group C match ended without a winner (25:25). The closest Egypt came was on their home soil at Egypt 2021, when the Scandinavians beat the "Pharaohs" 24:23.