The favourites of the 2017 World Championship presented by Olivier Krumbholz


9 January 2017

From Wednesday, 24 teams will play the 25th Men’s Handball World Championship. Among them, some seem better equipped than others to win the trophy on January 29th. Before the opening game, Olivier Krumbholz, the Competition Director, presents the frontrunners of the coming tournament.

“As I see it, five teams can be considered as favourites: France, Denmark, Croatia, Spain and Germany. Two big frontrunners stand out from these five teams, in my opinion: France, because of its results of the last decade and because they will be at home, and Denmark, because they seem very well equipped and because they have momentum.”


“They have a very consistent roster, with some huge players in it. The Northern countries are usually very strong when it comes to master the basic technical knowledge, and this Denmark really reflects this. They play a very crafty and skilful handball, with some players clearly above the rest. Obviously, there is Mikkel Hansen, but goalkeeper Niklas Landin is also an extraordinary player.”


“It’s a bit like the Danish team, France’s main strength is their very rich roster, but it is also this successful combination of young and experienced players, which gives them a lot of resources. There is really a lot of talent in this team, maybe even more than in the Danish team. If the young players manage to play their game and to show some nerve, they can contribute greatly, but they will also need some experienced players to guide them. The French team will have to find this alchemy between the experienced players, who will have to reinforce the structure, and the young ones, who will have to bring some energy.”


“They have been struggling in the last years, even though the German internationals are mostly playing in Bundesliga, which is the toughest championship. So it was a bit surprising to see them fail, and then, all of sudden, they are back in business. As France, Germany presents an interesting mix of generations. There are many talented young players in this team, but I’m not sure they will manage to confirm their excellent results of 2016.”


“Here too, there are some very good young players. They didn’t always have good results over the last years, but I think it is time for them to start over. They have some very gifted players, and the team has a good tactical coordination, but maybe it is not the best team mentally speaking. In a good day, they can beat any team, but when things are not turning like they expected, they can drop the game.”


“It’s a team with a lot of quality players, which has had very consistent results over the years. When there is a below-average performance, they bounce back very quickly. So, we can expect them to be very motivated at this World Championship, after missing the Olympic Games. They have a very strong defense, especially the central defense. But it is also a team which is in the process of renewing, and we will see how they take it. A player like Alex Dujshebaev will have, for the first time, some huge responsibilities as the starting right back. If he plays well at the World Championship, Spain can hope for a very good result, but it works the other way around too.”


Even though they are the last World Championship runners-up, Qatar was not mentioned spontaneously by Olivier Krumbholz, because their roster seems less impressive this time than it was at the last tournaments. Olivier Krumbholz: “Some major players are missing, but some are there too, and these ones are still very good players. Qatar’s main concern is the too little turnover in their roster, so when you remove some very good players, the ones that replace them are clearly underperforming. Qatar’s roster is less consistent than the ones from the other top teams, which could be a handicap during this World Championship.”

The outsiders

“Could a surprise happen? It’s the big question… Could Iceland, Russia or Norway upset all these frontrunners? The surprises are not so common in handball, but I think these three teams should be watched carefully. If I should gamble on one outsider, I would say Russia. There are some very talented young players in this team, and some big guys too. Just a few years ago, Russia had an exceptional team, it’s a major handball country, and I think they’re on their way back to the top. I think they can achieve something during this World Championship.”