18 European teams start U20 world title hunt

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Slovenia is hosting the first IHF Women’s Junior (U20) World Championship in four years, with a record field of 32 teams competing for the big prize as the event in Celje starts Wednesday.

The 2020 edition in Romania had to be cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic, which means that 2018 winners Hungary are arriving in Slovenia as the defending champions.

Hosts Slovenia and titleholders Hungary are among a group of 18 national teams from European countries headlining the tournament.

Initially, 17 European teams were set to take part, but Lithuania have been added to the field after the withdrawal of Paraguay in May. Also, Italy received a wildcard to fill the open spot after the exclusion of Russia.

It is the first time the competition is carried out with 32 participants – eight more than at previous editions. The preliminary round consists of eight groups of four teams, with the top two from each group advancing to the main round.

Hungary share a group with the likes of Poland and Egypt, while Slovenia are set to meet Germany. Also, France and Norway will clash in the preliminary round, with Brazil and South Korea the other contenders in what is arguably the toughest group (full playing schedule).

The main round, scheduled for 26-29 June, has four groups of four, with again the top two advancing to the quarter-finals, on 30 June. The semi-finals are set for 1 July, followed by the final on Sunday 3 July.

All matches take place in three arenas – Golovec and Zlatorog, home base to EHF Champions League regulars RK Celje Pivovarna Laško, in Celje, as well as Tri Lilije in Laško – and are streamed live on the YouTube channel of the IHF, though geo-restrictions apply in certain countries.

photo © 2022 Anze Malovrh | kolektiff

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