PREVIEW: 2015 champions France are among the favourites again when the Men’s Youth World Championship 2017 gets underway in Georgia on 8 August
Europe keen to continue dominance at Men’s 19 World Championship
Handball fans across Europe will get a sneak preview of future EHF EURO and VELUX EHF Champions League stars when the seventh edition of the Men’s Youth (U19) IHF World Championship takes place in Georgia this month.
Two large halls in the Olympic Palace in Tbilisi will host the 24-nation tournament, which starts with the preliminary round on Tuesday and ends with the final on 20 August (match schedule). All matches will be shown live on the IHF YouTube channel.
The four groups of six in the preliminary round include no less than 14 teams from Europe.
2015 champions France are likely to face stiff competition from Scandinavian trio Denmark, Norway and Sweden in Group A.
But with another strong generation of players, which won the Men’s 18 EHF EURO title last year, Les Bleus are definitely among the title favourites again.
In Group B, hosts Georgia are up against Germany and 2015 bronze medallists Iceland.
Croatia, which lost the M18 EHF EURO final to France last year, are sharing Group C with Poland and Portugal, while Russia, Serbia, 2015 runners-up Slovenia and Spain go head to head in Group D.
Poland initially failed to qualify but have been added as a late entry to replace Venezuela.
The South-Americans had to pull out of the competition due to increasing social unrest in their country. As the Pan-American Team Handball Federation announced no substitute, IHF rules awarded the open spot to the EHF, which nominated Poland.
The non-European participants are Bahrain, Egypt (Group A), Algeria, Chile, Japan (B), Argentina, Brazil, South Korea (C), Mexico and Tunisia (D).
The top-four teams of each group advance to the Last 16, which will be contested on 16 August. The fifth- and sixth-ranked teams play on for the President’s Cup.
Europe has always dominated the Under-19 World Championship – not just by its number of participants.
South Korea took silver at the inaugural event in Qatar in 2005 but remain the only non-European nation ever to win a medal at the two-yearly competition.
While France won the title two years ago, Denmark are arguably the most successful nation in the 12-year history of the event, having claimed the trophy three times (2007-11-13).
The other winners so far have been Serbia and Montenegro (2005) and Croatia (2009).
TEXT: Eric Willemsen / ts
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