14 teams fight for eight play-off tickets
International women’s handball returns this weekend when the European qualification for the IHF World Championship 2021 in Spain gets underway.
From Friday through Sunday, four tournaments are scheduled as a total of 14 teams will battle it out for the remaining eight places in the play-offs. The playing schedule can be found here.
- 14 teams divided into four groups, with the top two of each group advancing to the play-offs
- a fifth group, consisting of Portugal, Turkey and Finland, will not be played following the withdrawal of Finland
- six European teams have already qualified for the finals tournament: Hosts Spain, defending champions Netherlands, and EHF EURO 2020 top four Norway, France, Croatia and Denmark
- the play-offs ultimately decide the 10 teams that join those six nations at the 1-19 December finals tournament
- the draw for the play-offs is on 22 March at 11:00 CET; first leg on 16/17 April, second leg on 20/21 April
Group 1 in Luxembourg (SVK, UKR, ISR, LUX)
Slovakia and Ukraine start as favourites for the top-two positions: Slovakia played at the EHF EURO 2014 and Ukraine were regulars at World Championships until 2009, including a run to the semi-finals in 2003. Israel and hosts Luxembourg have yet to experience a finals tournament participation.
Group 2 in Skopje, North Macedonia (MKD, ICE, LTU, GRE)
The hosts are aiming for their first appearance at World Championships since 2007. They will likely face the toughest opposition from Iceland, who last played at major international events a decade ago, and Lithuania, who had their peak in the 1990s. Greece only played at one major tournament - as organisers of the 2004 Olympics.
Group 3 will not be played (POR, TUR, FIN)
Portugal and Turkey advance to the play-offs following the withdrawal of Finland.
Group 4 in Maria Enzersdorf, Austria (AUT, ITA, KOS)
Austria were the 1999 bronze medallists but have been missing out on World Championships since 2009. The EHF EURO 2024 co-hosts are strong favourites to advance from this group. And with Italy likely having the edge over Kosovo, the top-two spots might well be secured before the ‘final’ between Austria and Italy on Sunday afternoon.
Group 5 in Minsk, Belarus (BLR, SUI, FAR)
Hosts Belarus are hoping to qualify for World Championships for the third time, but only the first time since 1999. Switzerland are eying their first visit to a major tournament, before they will co-host EHF EURO 2024 with Austria and Hungary. Faroe Islands, however, are dangerous outsiders, having beaten Finland and Greece to reach the play-offs of the EHF EURO 2018 qualifiers.
Photo Austria © 2019 Diener | Eva Manhart