Denmark went undefeated and won their first title at the 2019 World Men’s Handball Championship. By winning, the nation has also qualified to the 2020 Olympics. The World Men’s Handball Championship was held across six cities in Denmark and Germany from January 10th to January 27th 2019.
The format of the 24-team tournament included two group stages. The preliminary round had four groups of six teams with the top three advancing to the main round of two groups of six teams with results among advancing teams also progressing. The top two teams advance to the semi-finals.
Defending champions France was able to top Group A with only a 25-25 draw against Germany being their only blemish on the points table. However, they were made to work for their top finishing as they had to repel a comeback against Brazil and comeback against Russia after being down by as much as four goals. They won those matches 24-22 and 23-22 respectively. Co-host Germany finished second in the group with three victories and two draws, the second one being a 22-all match against Russia. A 25-23 Brazil victory over Russia proved to be decisive as Brazil grabbed the final spot to advance to the main round. Serbia and a combined North and South Korean team finished fifth and sixth respectively.
Group B generally followed the expected script with undefeated Croatia and current European champions Spain facing off in the final match of the group. A rally during the late parts of the first half, led by Zlatko Horvat and Zeljko Musa saw Croatia open up a lead and hold on to win 23-19 to win the group over Spain. The final spot came down to Iceland and Macedonia whom also faced each other on the final day. A close match where the lead was never more than three saw Macedonia holding a lead in the first half, but it was Iceland which ended up winning the match and advanced to the next round 24-22. Fifth and sixth place went to Bahrain and Japan respectively.
Group C came down to co-host Denmark and Norway whom were undefeated going into the final match. Denmark took an early lead and never relinquished it. At one point they held a nine goal lead over Norway, but in the end they won 30-26. The final spot for the main round was won by Tunisia whom defeated Chile and Austria 36-30 and 32-27 respectively. Chile finished fourth with a 32-24 victory over Austria while Saudi Arabia finished sixth.
Sweden went undefeated in Group D, but were made to earn it as they had to push back a come back against Egypt (27-24) and came back against both Qatar (23-22) and Hungary (33-30). Hungary finished second in the group with two victories and two draws against Egypt and Argentina. Qatar’s shocking 24-23 loss to Angola during the first rotation of matches proved costly as they were unable to catch Egypt despite defeating them 28-23 in a direct match, causing them to finish fourth. Argentina and Angola finished fifth and sixth respectively.
The main round saw Germany go undefeated in Group I, with narrow 22-21 and 31-30 victories over Croatia and Spain respectively. Despite finishing ahead of Germany in the first round France moved down a spot, thanks largely to their 23-20 defeat against Croatia during the final match. However, France did just enough to hold on to second place and a spot in the semi-final after Croatia lost to Brazil 29-26 earlier in the round. Spain, Brazil and Iceland all finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.
Group II saw Denmark continue its victory streak with wins over Hungary (25-22), Egypt (26-20) and Sweden (30-26), as they advanced to the semi-final. Joining them was Norway whom defeated Sweden 30-27. Egypt’s 30-23 victory over Tunisia was enough for them to finish fourth while Hungary and Tunisia finished fifth and sixth respectively.
The semi-final saw Denmark build up a lead of six goals by the end of the first half against the defending World champions France. Denmark would go on to reach their fourth final by winning 38-30. In the other match, Norway kept up a narrow lead over Germany, but it wasn’t until the end where they felt comfortable, winning the match and reaching the final for the second time in a row 31-25.
The final started off close, but towards the late parts of the first half Denmark began pulling ahead over Norway until it was winning 18-11 at half-time. They would continue to hold their lead, winning the championship 31-22. France won the bronze medal, defeating Germany 26-25 despite being down 13-9 at half-time.
While this was Denmark’s fourth trip to the final this is their first World Championship victory. This tournament was also a qualifier to the final Olympic qualification tournament. The six highest ranked nations not yet qualified will compete. Currently, Norway, France, Germany, Sweden, Croatia and Spain are qualified to the final qualifier. Should one of them win the European Championship then Egypt while take their place. Likewise, should Egypt also win their continental championship then Brazil will take their spot and if Brazil also wins then Hungary will take the spot.