France 2017: Group B

AFP

During the first round of the 2017 World Championship, the fifteen group B matches will be played in Les Arènes de Metz, from 13 to 20 January. Six nations will fight for the four qualifiying spots for the eighth finals.

Group B is maybe the most homogeneous group of first round on paper. Runner-up of the 2016 European Championship, Spain stills appears to be the slight favourite for the first place. Looking for revenge after missing the qualification for the Rio Olympic Games, la Roja will rely on a very consistent roster, featuring some stars such as line player Julen Aguinagalde, centre back Raul Entrerrios, left winger Valero Rivera or left back Alex Dujshebaev.

After reaching the 6th place at the Rio Olympics, Slovenia harbors some logical ambitions for this World Championship in France. Despite a few absent players, the team coached by the legendary Veselin Vujovic will have some arguments to present, with the two Montpellier lefties Vid Kavticnik and Jure Dolenec, centre back Marko Besjak or the highly talented 20 year-old right winger Blaz Janc.

Underdogs with assets

Iceland struggled at the 2016 European Championship, with a final 13th place, but is now hoping to restore its reputation at the 2017 World Championship. Injured since the month of November, star centre back Aron Palmarsson could miss the beginning of the tournament, but Iceland will also rely on Barcelona’s left winger Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson, who is the overall top goalscorer of the Iceland team, and on right back Bjarki Mar Elisson.

Runner-up of the 2016 African Championship, Tunisia can credibly aim for a spot in the eighth finals. Rather tough defensively, the Tunisian team has some impressive weapons when attacking, with the very powerful left back Wael Jallouz or with left winger Oussema Boughanmi.

After ranking 11th at the 2016 European Championship in Poland, FYR Macedonia should be in with a chance of qualification as well. To reach the eighth finals, the Macedonian team will heavily rely on their two shot experts, left winger Dejan Manaskov and right back Kiril Lazarov, who is the best goalscorer ever on one World Championship (92 goals in 2009).

Angola will play its first World Championship since 2007, and was drawn in a very consistent group. The Palancas Negras’ main objective will be to put on a brave face, with their very solid defense which led them to the 3rd place at the 2016 African Championship.

Group B complete schedule :

Slovenia – Angola (12 janvier, 14h)
FYR Macedonia – Tunisia (12 janvier, 17h45)
Spain – Iceland (12 janvier, 20h45)
Iceland – Slovenia (14 janvier, 14h45)
Tunisia – Spain (14 janvier, 17h45)
Angola – FYR Macedonia (14 janvier, 20h45)
Iceland – Tunisia (15 janvier, 14h45)
Slovenia – FYR Macedonia (16 janvier, 17h45)
Spain – Angola (16 janvier, 20h45)
Slovenia – Tunisia (17 janvier, 17h45)
Angola – Iceland (17 janvier, 20h45)
FYR Macedonia – Spain (18 janvier, 20h45)
Tunisia – Angola (19 janvier, 14h)
FYR Macedonia – Iceland (19 janvier, 17h45)
Spain – Slovenia (19 janvier, 20h45)