Two places up for grabs for the 2023 IHF Men’s Junior World Championship

05 Jan. 2023

Two places up for grabs for the 2023 IHF Men’s Junior World Championship

The 2023 IHF Men's Junior World Championship will mark the return of the world handball flagship competition for the best U21 teams on the globe after a four-year hiatus, following the cancellation of the 2021 edition in Hungary due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the first time in the history of the competition, 32 teams will line up in Germany and Greece next summer. There are eight more teams than at the previous edition in 2019, which France won with a 28:23 win over Croatia.

However, the runners-up from the previous edition are still not qualified for Germany/Greece 2023 as they will face a difficult Qualification Phase, with two places for Europe up for grabs which will be awarded after two tournaments to be held in Chieti, Italy, from 6 to 8 January 2023.

Two round-robin tournaments are hosted by the Italian city, one with four teams and the other with three sides taking part, with only the winners progressing to the final tournament, due to take place from 20 June to 2 July 2023 in Germany and Greece.

Italy, Croatia, Montenegro and Israel will be facing off in Group A, while Poland, Norway and the Czech Republic will measure their strength in Group B in what promises to be an exciting competition, with two berths for the 2023 IHF Men's Junior World Championship on the line.

Italy, the 12th place side at the M20 EHF EURO 2022, have not qualified for the final tournament since 1985, while Israel made their last appearance in 2005, as they are set to be the underdogs in their group. Montenegro are vying for their first participation in the competition after finishing 16th at the M20 EHF EURO 2022, two places below Croatia, who ended up in 14th place after a disappointing outing.

In the last European tournament in July, Croatia drew against Italy, 25:25, while Montenegro lost both matches against their opponents, 25:28 against Croatia and 26:31 against Italy.Β 

"Croatia are probably the most experienced team at this level. But I don't think there is a favourite in our group. Four teams of the same level will compete. We cannot afford to enter the court with the wrong mentality or to miss too many shots, as it had happened in some matches at the EURO. We'll have to enter focused, confident in our abilities, and I'm sure we'll be able to do well," said one of Italy's top players, Nicola Fadanelli.

In the other group, the Czech Republic, a team that has not qualified for the IHF Men's Junior World Championship since 2009, will try to rewrite history, despite facing more experienced sides in Poland and Norway.

Poland have not made it to the final tournament since 2003 and will be looking to build up their future before hosting the competition in 2025, while Norway have been present in the last three editions of the tournament.

Poland finished 13th at the last M20 EHF EURO, while Norway finished 15th after winning their last match against Montenegro (30:22).

27 teams have already punched their tickets for the tournament, with 12 European sides – co-hosts Germany and Greece and Denmark, the Faroe Islands, France, Hungary, Iceland, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden – already through.

Four Asian sides – Bahrain, Japan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia –, four African sides – Algeria, Angola, Egypt and Tunisia – and four sides from the South and Central American Confederation – Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Costa Rica have already made it through.

Last but not least, Cuba and the United States will represent the North American and Caribbean Confederation, while Australia will also make the trip after winning the IHF Trophy Oceania.

One last spot is available for the winner of the IHF Inter-Continental Trophy, scheduled from 14 to 18 March 2023.

Photo: Vanni Caputo/FIGH