MNT to Play at World Championship for the 1st time in 22 years
by Matthew Collins
After more than two decades, the United States will have a team at the IHF World Championships, with this years’ tournament to be hosted by Sweden and Poland.
The USA were slated to compete in the 2021 IHF World Championships in Egypt but due to a COVID-19 outbreak during a training camp leading up to the tournament, they were forced to withdraw.
The path for the USA qualification was through the NACHC Qualification tournament in June 2022 in Mexico City. The squad went undefeated capped off with a 33-26 victory over Greenland in the Gold Medal Match to secure their place on the global stage.
Led by Head Coach Robert Hedin and Assistant Coach Darrick Heath, the USA squad, composed of a mix of young players and veterans, was slotted into Group G along with Morocco, Croatia, and Egypt.
The Americans are up against strong European and African competition, with a goal of bettering the country’s place at the last World Championship in 2001. All of the USA’s group stage matches will take place at the Husqvarna Garden in Jonkoping, Sweden.
In their first match of the tournament, the USA will take on Morocco, who qualified for the World Championship with a third place finish at the 2022 African Handball Championship, beating Tunisia in the bronze medal match game. The Moroccans, otherwise known as the Atlas Lions, competed at the 2021 World Championships, placing 29th.
After a day of rest, the Americans will meet a strong Croatia side. With a 6th place finish in 2019 and a 15th place finish in 2021, the Croatians have had success at recent World Championships, in addition to their silver medal performance at the 2020 European Championships. Olympic success is also a part of the Croatian Handball Federation history with gold medals from both the Atlanta 1996 and Athens 2004 Games.
Domagoj Duvnjak will captain the Croatian squad at this tournament. Duvnjak has vast experience playing at the top levels of Europe, winning the EHF Champions League and Handball Bundesliga with THW-Kiel in the 2020-21 season.
The last match of the Group Stage will see the USA face Egypt, the hosts of the last World Championships. Coming off back to back African Handball Championship Gold Medals in 2022 and 2022, the Egyptian squad is looking to bettering the 7th place finish they had at the last edition of the World Championship.
Their most recent African Handball Championship in 2022 was capped off with a convincing 37-25 victory over Cape Verde, who is in Group C. At the recent 2020 Olympics, Egypt placed 4th, losing to Spain 33-31 in the Bronze Medal Match.
The USA’s performance in the three Group G matches will determine their next step in the tournament, and if they head to the President’s Cup in Plock, Poland for the 25th to 32nd ranked teams or to the main round to fight for the Gold Medal.
All games will be streamed on ESPN3 and the USA group stage match schedule is:
Jan. 13 vs Morocco-12pm EST/ 9am PST
Jan. 15 vs Croatia-2:30pm EST/ 11:30am PST
Jan. 17 vs Egypt-12pm EST/ 9am PST
Stay tuned for scores, team information, and more on our social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok!