Aside from hosts France and the three medallists at the EHF EURO 2016, nine European teams will qualify for the 2017 Men’s World Championship in France. The pairings of the play-off matches, which will see one team from each set qualify for France 2017, were drawn on Sunday in Krakow’s TAURON Arena, right before the bronze final Norway vs Croatia threw off.
EHF Secretary General Michael Wiederer, IHF Executive Member Fratisek Taborsky and EHF Competition Chairman Leopold Kalin drew the pairings, which are as follows:
Sweden vs Bosnia-Herzegovina
Czech Republic vs FYR Macedonia
Poland vs Netherland
Russia vs Montenegro
Serbia vs Hungary
Iceland vs Portugal
Slovenia vs Loser of the EHF EURO 2016 bronze medal match (Norway/Croatia)
Belarus vs Latvia
Denmark vs Austria
The play-off-matches will be carried out in two legs on 7-9 June and 14-16 June 2016, with the aggregate winners qualifying for the 2017 World Championship.
Stefan Lövgren, the manager of the Sweden national team said:
“We have respect for Bosnia-Herzegovina, but a good chance to proceed. We are aware, as we failed on the way to the 2013 World Championship in Montenegro, this should not happen again.”
Neighbours Hungary and Serbia expect full arenas for their play-off matches.
“We have a perfect relationship among the federations and we will have two matches in full arenas,” said President of the Serbian Handball Federation Velimir Marjanovic. “We are satisfied, as those matches definitely will be a promotion for handball.”
Martin Hausleitner, Secretary General of the Austrian Handball Federation, had a light-hearted response to their tough draw:
“It is bitter for France that Denmark, a great handball nation, will miss the World Championship! No, to be serious: Denmark were one of three teams we definitely did not want to face, but now we have them. We have some months to prepare until June – our coach loves challenges like this.”
After the disappointment for Poland at the EHF EURO 2016, where they failed to qualify for the semi-finals, President of the Polish Handball Federation Andrzej Krasnicki knows how important a strong performance in the qualification matches is:
“It was our goal to qualify directly for France by winning a medal. Now we have to go through the qualification play-offs. The Netherlands have improved in the last years, but I guess we are the favourite.”