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Six places in final qualification stage up for grabs

EHF / Courtney Gahan

The road to the Men's IHF World Championship 2023 either continues or begins for 14 European teams this week, as part 1 of phase 2 of the qualifiers takes place from Wednesday to Sunday. Ultimately, the remaining nine European places at the World Championship will be determined in phase 2, which will conclude in mid-April.

Phase 2 of the qualifiers en route to the final tournament in Sweden and Poland next January sees a series of double-header ties, with the winners determined based on the aggregate score of both legs.

  • Greece, Belgium, Finland, Estonia, Romania, Israel, Faroe Islands and Italy all progressed from phase 1, thanks to top-two finishes at their respective round-robin tournaments
  • the teams that progressed from phase 1 were drawn into pairings with the nine lowest ranked teams from the EHF EURO 2022, plus Switzerland, to determine the phase 2 part 1 ties
  • six teams that win the part 1 play-offs will continue to part 2, where the nine top-ranked sides from the EHF EURO 2022 – aside from those already qualified – as well as Faroe Islands await. The victor in the Slovakia vs Belgium double-header will qualify for the World Championship directly due to the suspension of Russia from the competition. Faroe Islands, who were scheduled to play Belarus in part 1, as well as Finland, who were drawn against Ukraine, have both progressed straight to part 2
  • of the teams playing phase 2 part 1, three have never participated in the World Championship before: Estonia, Israel and Belgium
  • Romania have the most appearances at the Men’s World Championship out of all the teams in part 1 of the final stage of qualifiers, with 14. But after they won four titles within five editions in the early history of the event, Romania dropped out of the top nations and last participated in the global tournament in 2011
  • six European teams are already qualified for the World Championship: defending champions Denmark, co-hosts Sweden and Poland, and the three top-ranked sides from the EHF EURO 2022 aside from Sweden and Denmark – Spain, France and Norway. A total of 32 teams will contest the event in January 2023

Extra motivation after surprise returns in 2021

When the last World Championship was held, two teams contesting part 1 of the phase 2 qualifiers for the 2023 edition had quite a ride.

Switzerland and North Macedonia had both missed out on places at the tournament in Egypt, but due to positive Covid cases in their teams, Czech Republic and the USA withdrew from the World Championship in the days leading up to throw-off. Switzerland and North Macedonia received the call inviting their squads as replacements.

Both those national teams have long counted on a leading star – Andy Schmid for Switzerland and Kiril Lazarov for North Macedonia – and for both Egypt 2021 was special. Lazarov had made his World Championship debut in Egypt 22 years before, in 1999. Schmid had never played the global tournament and thereby made his debut at the age of 37.

Now, both Switzerland and North Macedonia are hoping to return to the event again, but face a journey to do so, as they begin in phase 2 part 1. Switzerland will meet Portugal while North Macedonia play Romania in their double-header.

This week's matches are also special for Uros Zorman, who won the EHF Champions League four times as a player with Ciudad Real and Kielce. He has now replaced Ljubomir Vranjes as head coach of Slovenia after the EHF EURO 2022. Slovenia face Italy in their first games under Zorman; if they advance, they would meet Serbia in part 2 for a ticket to Poland-Sweden 2023.

Men’s World Championship 2023 qualification play-offs – phase 2 part 1, first leg

Wednesday 16 March

Israel vs Lithuania at 18:00 CET – live on EHFTV
Greece vs Bosnia and Herzegovina at 18:15 CET – live on EHFTV
Italy vs Slovenia at 18:30 CET – live on EHFTV
Slovakia vs Belgium at 20:00 CET – live on EHFTV

Thursday 17 March

Austria vs Estonia at 19:00 CET – live on EHFTV
Portugal vs Switzerland at 20:00 CET – live on EHFTV
North Macedonia vs Romania at 19:00 CET – live on EHFTV

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