The draw of the 2023 IHF Men’s World Championship was completed on Saturday at the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice, the same city which will host the first match of the competition, Poland vs France, on 11 January 2023.
In a prestigious event, the scene was set by an impromptu concert by Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, before the singer of the official anthem of the competition, Polish star Alicja Szemplinska, was presented, as well as Pax, the Poland/Sweden 2023 mascot.
A short statement from IHF President Dr Hassan Moustafa followed, which underlined the motto of the 28th IHF Men’s World Championship, “Stick Together”.
“We are talking about 32 teams that will take part in the IHF Men’s World Championship, it means that these are the top 32 teams in the world. We all need to stick together,” said Dr Hassan Moustafa.
The official ball of the competition, which is coloured in red, white, yellow and blue, the traditional colours of the two hosts Poland and Sweden was also presented by the IHF President before the draw started.
IHF Commission of Organising and Competition (COC) Chairperson Per Bertelsen and IHF Competitions Director Patric Strub conducted the draw, assisted by former stars from each of the two hosts – Poland’s Slawomir Szmal and Sweden’s Magnus Wislander.
Each hosting country had the prerogative of assigning a qualified team to each host city. Therefore, Germany will play their preliminary round in Group E in the Spodek in Katowice, Spain and Norway are due to play in the TAURON Arena in Krakow in Groups A and F, respectively, reigning champions Denmark will face their Group H opponents in Malmo, Croatia have been assigned to Group G in Jonkoping and Iceland to Group D in Kristianstad.
Hosts Poland and Sweden have elected to feature in Katowice and Gothenburg, respectively.
The full draw:
Group A (in Krakow): Spain, Montenegro, Chile, Islamic Republic of Iran
Group B (in Katowice): France, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia
Group C (in Gothenburg): Sweden, Brazil, Africa 2, Uruguay
Group D (in Kristianstad): Iceland, Portugal, Hungary, Republic of Korea
Group E (in Katowice): Germany, Qatar, Serbia, Africa 5
Group F (in Krakow): Norway, North Macedonia, Argentina, Netherlands
Group G (in Jönköping): Africa 1, Croatia, Africa 3, United States of America
Group H (in Malmö): Denmark, Belgium, Bahrain, Africa 4
The most balanced group looks to be the one featuring co-hosts Poland, as their former star, Slawomir Szmal, was not their talisman during the draw. Poland will face France, Saudi Arabia and Slovenia, as their task of navigating to the main round with four points looks difficult.
Two other groups – Group D and Group F – also have three European teams at the start, as Portugal and Iceland will meet once again, after facing off in the same phase of the competition at Egypt 2021, while Norway hope to take three wins in three matches against North Macedonia, Argentina and the Netherlands, a team that is appearing at the men’s flagship competition for the first time since 1961.
Reigning champions Denmark were allocated to Group H, where they are heavily favoured against Belgium, who make their debut at the IHF Men’s World Championship, Bahrain and the fourth-placed side at the CAHB African Men’s Championship, due to take place this July in Egypt.
Co-hosts Sweden, the silver medallists at Egypt 2021, who will be cheered on by their home fans in Gothenburg, are also favoured to progress from their group with a maximum amount of points, facing Brazil, Uruguay and the runners-up from the CAHB African Men’s Championship.
The team that is going to become the champions of Africa headlines Group G, where they are facing Croatia, the CAHB African Men’s Championship bronze medallists and the United States of America, who make their return after 22 years in the competition.
Last, but not least, Germany face Qatar, Serbia and the fifth-placed team at the CAHB African Men’s Championship in Group E.
The top three sides in each group will progress to the main round, while the last-placed sides are set to face each other in the President’s Cup.