Abou Fofana competes during the 2023 Gjensidige Cup ahead of the 2023 IHF World Championship in Trondheim, Norway.
After more than two decades, the United States will have a team at the IHF World Championship, with this years’ tournament to be hosted by Sweden and Poland.
Team USA was slated to compete in the 2021 IHF World Championship 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 sixth-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 U.S. face Egypt, the hosts of the last world championship. Coming off back to back African Handball Championship gold medals in 2021 and 2022, the Egyptian squad is looking to bettering the seventh-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 Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, Egypt placed fourth, losing to Spain, 33-31, in the bronze-medal match.
The U.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 – 12 p.m. ET / 9 a.m. PT
- Jan. 15 vs. Croatia – 2:30 p.m. ET / 11:30 a.m. PT
- Jan. 17 vs. Egypt – 12 p.m. ET / 9 a.m. PT