Saturday,23 March, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1424, (3 - 9 JANUARY 2019)
Saturday,23 March, 2019
Issue 1424, (3 - 9 JANUARY 2019)

Ahram Weekly

Heading for the past

Egypt’s handball team seek to return to their heyday when they face the world’s best at the upcoming 2019 World Handball Championship, reports Inas Mazhar

 

The 26th edition of the International Handball Federation (IHF) Men’s World Championship will take place in Germany and Denmark from 10-27 January.

The two-week tournament will see the participation of 24 teams from six continents: hosts Germany and Denmark and reigning world champions France in addition to those who qualified, including Tunisia, Egypt and Angola from Africa; Qatar, Bahrain, Korea and Saudi Arabia from Asia; Spain, Serbia, Iceland, Russia, Hungary, Austria, FYR Macedonia, Sweden, Norway, Croatia from Europe; and Argentina, Brazil, Chile representing Pan America.

As no Oceania team ranked fifth or higher at the 2018 Asian Men’s Championship, a wild card was awarded by the IHF to Japan.

According to the regulations, the 24 teams will go through the preliminary round which is played in four groups of six teams each in Berlin, Munich, Herning and Copenhagen. The top three teams of each group go to the main round which is played in two groups in the cities of Cologne and Herning. The teams ranked four to six in the preliminary round groups continue to the President’s Cup played over two days in Cologne and Copenhagen. Four teams from the main round groups qualify for the semi-finals that are played in Hamburg. The final and the bronze match are played in Herning.

Egypt play in Group D in Copenhagen with Sweden, Qatar, Argentina, Angola and Hungary, all of whom the Egyptians are familiar with and have fully prepared for.

In the 1990s, Egypt were the leading force in African handball – on and off the court, the first African team to win a World Juniors Championship at home in 1993. The IHF was also the first African federation to host a Men’s World Championship in 1999, when Egypt finished seventh. During that time, Egypt were among the world’s top 10. In 2001 and driven by legendary Hussein Zaki, Egypt became the first non-European team to make it to the semi-finals of the Men’s World Championship before leaving France with a fourth place finish, the highest rank achieved in their history in the championship.

On the continental stage, Egypt have been among the medalists since 1985. At the 2018 African Championship, they easily beat Angola 31-19 in the semis, only to be defeated in a close encounter by their continental arch-rivals Tunisia in the final.

In May 2018, Egypt signed a new coach, former Champions League winner David Davis from Spain, who had been assistant coach at the Champions League winners HC Vardar (Fyr Macedonia). Weeks later, line player Mohamed Shebib became the first ever Egyptian to win the EHF Champions League with Montpellier HB.

But the team has fallen on hard times in the past decade on the world level. Though qualifying to the World Championships in all previous editions, they ranked below the top 10.

With a new coach on board, Egypt’s handball team is aiming to regain their glory days when they were the wonder team from Africa. Their preparations for the 26th event show they are determined to return to where they once were.

Earlier this week, Egypt claimed the Latvia Handball Friendly Championship. The Pharaohs topped the four-nation tournament with six points, winning all their matches against Belgium 28-19, Ukraine 25-24 and hosts Latvia 38-24.

The World Handball Championship will see matches played in venues in Germany and Denmark with a capacity of 10,000 or more. In Germany the competition will take place across all four points of the compass – in the north in Hamburg, in the east in Berlin, west in Cologne and the far south in Munich. In Denmark, matches will be played at the Jyske Bank Boxen in Herning and in Copenhagen, at the Royal Arena.

The Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin has a capacity of 14,800 and will feature joint hosts Germany playing all their preliminary round matches there, alongside their other Group A opponents.

In Munich, the 12,000-capacity Olympiahalle will feature matches from preliminary Group B with either France or Croatia.

The 19,250-capacity home of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 – the LANXESS Arena in Cologne will host the main round – Group 1 and President’s Cup games for teams ranked fourth after the preliminary pound (places 13-16).

Like the 2017 IHF Women’s World Championship in Germany last month, the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg will host up to 13,000 people for the semi-finals.

Co-hosts Denmark will also see their capital used for the highlight of the global men’s handball tournament as the new Royal Arena in Copenhagen welcomes preliminary round Group D and President’s Cup teams (places 17-24). Up to 13,700 fans will welcome Sweden or Norway at the arena if they qualify.

The familiar Jyske Bank Boxen in Herning, in the centre of Denmark, will host Preliminary Round Group C, main round Group II and the bronze medal and gold medal matches. Already-qualified Denmark will play their matches at the 15,000-capacity arena except for their first match, which will be played at the Royal Arena in Copenhagen.

Egypt’s handball results

World Championships: 1993: (12th place), 1995: (6), 1997: (6), 1999: (7), 2001: (4), 2003: (15), 2005: (14), 2007: (17), 2009: (14), 2011: (14), 2013: (16), 2015: (14), 2017: (13)

Olympic Games: 1992: (11th place), 1996: (6), 2000: (7), 2004: (12), 2008: (10), 2016: (9)

African Championships: 1979: Silver, 1981: (fourth place), 1983: (4), 1985: Silver, 1987: Silver, 1989: Silver, 1991: Gold, 1992: Gold, 1994: Bronze, 1996: Bronze, 1998: Bronze, 2000: Gold, 2002: Bronze, 2004: Gold, 2006: Silver, 2008: Gold, 2010: Silver, 2012: Bronze, 2014: Bronze, 2016: Gold, 2018: Silver

Coach: David Davis

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