While Qatar shone bright as France snatched the title in 2015 in Doha, one cannot ignore Germany’s resurgence and its 2016 European title, as well as Denmark’s gold medal in Rio last summer, meaning that this year’s tournament will see unprecedented intensity.
The World Handball Championship returns to France following a 16-year absence and the country’s second world title. 16 years ago in France, Arab teams began posting improved results, as Egypt became the first Arab and African team to reach the semifinal, followed by Tunisia in 2005. Qatar stole the spotlight in the 2015 tournament, becoming the first Arab and non-European team to reach the final.
The first World Handball Championship took place in 1938, and 11 different nations have won the title since then, including West Germany. France sits comfortably at the top with 5 world titles, followed by Sweden and Romania (four each), Germany, Russia, and Spain (two each), and Croatia, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and West Germany (one each).
Other national teams that failed to nab gold but managed to guarantee a spot on the podium include Denmark (three silver medals and one bronze), East Germany (2 silver and two bronze), Poland (one silver and three bronze), Austria, Hungary, and Qatar (one silver), and Serbia (two bronze).
The 2017 championship will be marked by Romania’s continued absence (since their last appearance on the world stage in 2011), and Norway – which eliminated France from last year’s European Championship’s quarterfinals – needing a wild card to make its way to France.
Matches will be played in eight cities that were chosen to host the championship: Lille, Paris, Nantes, Montpellier, Albertville, Rouen, Metz, and Brest. Stade Pierre-Mauroy will be the tournament’s largest venue with a capacity of 27,500, while Brest Arena will be the smallest with a capacity of 4000.
First round matches will be played in Nantes (except the opening match featuring France v/s Brazil in Paris), while Metz will host the second round, Rouen will host the third, and Paris will host the fourth. Placement matches 24 through 17 will be played in Brest, while the round of 16 and quarterfinals will be hosted by Albertville, Lille, Paris, and Montpellier, and the Capital city will host the semifinals and the final.