Just like the World Cup and soccer, handball gets together every four years for a World Championship, except the handball folks like to cut that four in half and get together every two.
In 2013, Spain will host the rest of the 23 countries invited to participate for world supremacy, bringing the grand total to 24 teams that will compete over a 17-day span.
Qualifying has been going on since 2011, when events like the European Championship have allowed big names like Russia, Germany and Poland to participate, while the rest of the field has been filled over the course of the 2012 championship season.
This is the first time Spain has hosted the event, marking the 12th different country to hold that designation. We've got you covered with a complete outlook for the biggest event in the sport's history to date, with schedule information, predictions and when and where to catch all the action.
When: Jan. 11-27, 2013
Where: Madrid, Seville, Guadalajara, Zaragoza, Barcelona and Granoliers, Spain (arenas in each of the six cities)
Watch: All matches streamed live at IHF.info (LiveHandball.TV)
Schedule/Pool Play/Bracket Play
The tournament features four pools that will feed into an elimination bracket. The top four teams from each pool make it to the round of 16, while the remaining eight face each other in two separate brackets (17-20; 21-24 play each other).
Here's a look at each pool based on the tournament draw:
|Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D|
Each group will play five games against the other teams in that specific draw, before feeding into the bracket on Jan. 20. Pool play starts Friday after the opening ceremony and won't conclude until the top four teams in each bracket stand alone.
For a complete look at the schedule and where you can find the individual matchups of each group, check out the official site of this year's tournament website.
When you look at past winners of the event, the host nation certainly draws some more gusto than the rest of the field. In the last five World Championships, the host nation has finished at least fourth in four of the five events.
In two of those tournaments, the host nation has won (Germany in 2007 and France in 2011). The defending champion Frenchmen look to be the favorite yet again, with the MVP of the sport still gracing the playing surface.
Daniel Narcisse, the 2012 winner of the IHF World Player of the Year award, will be ready to go for the France squad. His ability to get up in the air and score goals is really a treat to watch, and you can bet France's matches will be of popular interest in any of the six host cities.
Elsewhere, Tunisia is a young team that's looking to build off of a 2012 African Championship win and will have to do so in the same group as the defending champs. Lucky for them, there are four open spots in pool play and not just one.
Belarus and Montenegro both had successful runs during the European playoffs, and could be dark horse teams to make a deep run.
And finally, per the opening sentence of this graph, Spain will likely be a team that has home-court advantage throughout the event and will feed off of a very intrigued and excited crowd. As the IHF site says when you check out the event, Spain is an exciting choice not only for the teams, but for the sport.
Hosting country Spain as well as the numerous fans from abroad supporting their respective teams will make this event a true festival of handball...The Spanish people are known as sports enthusiasts – they will cheer for their team, but also respect all the other teams in a friendly manner. May the best team win and fair play prevail.
In that spirit, we'll conclude this preview with a mind towards Spain and France as the favorites in this event. Check out the event on the live stream, and make sure to check back with Bleacher Report as the tournament progresses to catch the latest news on where your country sits in the current bracket.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.