African representative, Nigeria Men’s senior handball national team will face hosts, Bulgaria and Azerbaijan in group D of the 2023 IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship.
The draw of the 4th edition was conducted on Friday at the IHF Headquarters in Basel with 12 participating teams.
The 12 sides were divided into four pots of three teams each. The assignment was based on results and rankings of continental events, IHF Trophies and their previous participation in IHF events over the past years.
There was no protection for the sides, meaning that any team could have met an opponent at this stage of the competition, with seven teams from Europe and one each from Asia, Africa, Oceania, South and Central America, North America and the Caribbean taking part in the draw.
As per the IHF Regulations, hosts Bulgaria, who were in the second pot, had the right to choose their group after the teams in Pot 1 and the teams in Pot 3 were drawn first.
The Secretary General of the Bulgaria Handball Federation, Teodor Iliev, used the prerogative to assign the hosts to Group D, where Bulgaria meet Azerbaijan and Nigeria.
Bulgaria are one of the three teams, alongside Great Britain and Malta, to have taken part in every edition of the competition and finished third in 2019, sealing the bronze medal. They will be favoured against Azerbaijan, which finished 10th in 2017 and 2019, and Nigeria, which finished seventh in 2019 in the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship.
In Group A, Malta will face Andorra and rookies India, which will be making their first appearance in the competition, becoming only the second team from the Asian Handball Federation to play in the competition after the People’s Republic of China.
Group B seems to be a balanced one, with Cyprus, Moldova and Australia facing off for a place in the semi-finals, while Great Britain, a team with a great start in 2023 where they qualified for Phase 2 of the EHF EURO 2026 Qualifiers, meet Cuba and Guatemala in Group C. Cuba are taking part in the competition for the second time, after securing the silver medal at Georgia 2019, losing against the hosts in the final (21:31).
The competition will take place in Varna, Bulgaria, between 25 and 30 April 2023. The winner of each group will progress to the semi-finals, while the second-placed sides head to the Placement Round 5/8, with the third-placed sides featuring in the Placement Round 9/12.
2023 IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship – preliminary round
Group A: Malta, Andorra, India
Group B: Cyprus, Moldova, Australia
Group C: Great Britain, Cuba, Guatemala
Group D: Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Nigeria