Tokyo Games handball groups set in Switzerland

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - JANUARY 26: Players of Spain lift the trophy following their team's victory in the Men's EHF EURO 2020 final match between Spain and Croatia at Tele2 Arena on January 26, 2020 in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images )
STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - JANUARY 26: Players of Spain lift the trophy following their team's victory in the Men's EHF EURO 2020 final match between Spain and Croatia at Tele2 Arena on January 26, 2020 in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images )

The groups for the Tokyo 2020 (in 2021) men’s and women’s Olympic Handball Competitions were set via a virtual draw from IHF headquarters in Switzerland today -- with the men's Group A looking like a fearsome road to travel.

The draw for the Men’s and Women’s Handball Competitions of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games were held earlier today at the headquarters of the International Handball Federation (IHF) in Basel, Switzerland.

The draw was held virtually, due to COVID-19 protocols, and sets the stage for some mouth-watering action on the court this summer in Tokyo.

Group A of the men’s draw is loaded with danger and the promise of much excitement as South American powers Argentina, reigning European champions Spain and world number-one Germany join France, Norway and Brazil.

Containing, as it does, the champions of Europe and South America, this Group A will be a tough slog for all the competing nations.

“It’s a very tough group. We will have to play against rivals who are at a very good level,” said Spain coach Jordi Ribera. “Norway are one of the best teams in the world, France are always in the top, Germany are a tough opponent and Brazil and Argentina have tons of potential.”

Argentina’s 41-year-old captain Gonzalo Carou added: “We knew it was going to be very complicated because only the best make the Olympics so we will have to be at our highest level. Here in Spain they are saying this is the 'Group of Death', but we don't have to pay attention to that: we want to compete and beat the top teams.”

LIMA, PERU - AUGUST 05: Gonzalo Carou of Argentina celebrates after defeating Chile in Men`s Handball Gold Medal Match on Day 10 of Lima 2019 Pan American Games at Sports Center 1 of Villa Deportiva Nacional on August 05, 2019 in Lima, Peru. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
LIMA, PERU - AUGUST 05: Gonzalo Carou of Argentina celebrates after defeating Chile in Men`s Handball Gold Medal Match on Day 10 of Lima 2019 Pan American Games at Sports Center 1 of Villa Deportiva Nacional on August 05, 2019 in Lima, Peru. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
2019 Getty Images

The men’s Group B consists of first-time qualifiers Bahrain, Egypt, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark and Japan.

As hosts of the Olympic handball competition, the Japanese delegation was able to choose the group they would go into. And coach Dagur Sigurðsson didn’t hesitate in selecting Group B. It's by far the simpler, at least on paper, of the two. “We more or less let them choose [gesturing to his players],” said Japan’s Icelandic coach and a former Olympian having competed at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens. “Only if they did the wrong choice I would have taken command…Obviously, it is going to be a very tough group for us, both groups are extremely difficult. These are the top 12 nations, more or less, in the world.”

Tough tests on the women’s side

Group A of the women’s competition will see Angola, Republic of Korea, Norway, Montenegro, the Netherlands and hosts Japan in action. And a Group B was drawn consisting of Brazil, France, Hungary, Russian Olympic Committee, Spain and Sweden.

“We are looking forward to playing these Olympic matches in Tokyo. For our fans it will be amazing to see the best players,” said Japan women’s coach Ulrik Kirkely of Denmark, who chose Group A for his host team.

“It is definitely a tough draw, but it could also have been worse,” said Sweden’s women’s coach Tomas Axner, who saw his side drawn into Group B. “But we are in a group with five European teams plus the South American champions, so there will be five very tough matches.

The Tokyo 2020 handball competitions begins on 24 July with the preliminary round of the men’s tournament. The women’s competition starts the following day. The medal matches are scheduled to be played on 7 August (men) and 8 August (women). 

All games will be contested at the Yoyogi National Stadium in Tokyo.