Since November 2015, when the 28th IHF Men’s World Championship was awarded to Poland and Sweden, the co-hosts have been slowly preparing to deliver a massive performance in the competition.
While Sweden have constantly been ahead of the curve, Poland had been undergoing a serious makeover of the squad. Their golden generation that sealed the silver medal at Germany 2007 and the bronze medal at Croatia 2009 was phased out and replaced by young players ready to take their chance.
Finishing 17th at France 2017 and 13th at Egypt 2021, while missing out on the final event at Denmark/Germany 2019, were underwhelming results. Still, coach Patryk Rombel remains upbeat about their chances in the current tournament.
“We have been preparing for this tournament for the last three and a half years. This was always to be the moment when we reached the peak of our form and our potential,” Rombel says to ihf.info.
“We are excited, there is a bit of stress, but everything is going according to plan. We hope to deliver our best handball in the coming weeks and make our country and ourselves proud.”
Poland’s team is an interesting mix of experience and youth .Stalwarts like left wing Przemysław Krajewski and back Piotr Chrapkowski are the most experienced players on the roster, while the two 25-year olds from Industria Kielce, right wing Arkadiusz Moryto and left back Szymon Sićko have become more and more reliable scorers in recent years.
The two have been in fine form this season, combining for 93 goals for their club team in the Machineseeker EHF Champions League, making them the top two scorers in Talant Dujshebaev’s side.
Indeed, they will hope to replicate this kind of form at the 28th IHF Men’s World Championship, where Poland will need plenty of help in the preliminary round as their former star Sławomir Szmal handed them a tough group in the draw in Katowice on 1 July 2022.
Poland will face Slovenia, Saudi Arabia and the reigning Olympic champions France in a group that will decide their future in the competition. It could not have been a more challenging start for the co-hosts in the Spodek Arena in Katowice as they will face a perennial contender, France, who finished outside the top four places only once in the last 11 editions of the competition.
“It is a very difficult match to start with and a very difficult opponent to beat. But if we want to go far in the tournament, we have to play against the best teams in the competition, so we will always have to face tough opponents. France are a very strong side and it will be a very difficult start for us,” adds Rombel.
But how does the coach see his side? What do Poland need to do to succeed in the competition?
According to Rombel, it all starts with the defence and Poland have proven time and time again that they can nurture, train and educate players to excel on that side of the ball. Now they have a functioning block, which Rombel highlights as the main feature of the team.
“We have a lot of players who are specialists on this level in their club teams, and I can just name a few, like the Gębala brothers or Piotr Chrapkowski, so all in all, I think it is safe to say that we have a good building block in defence. We only need to play together, to act as a team, and the results will come,” says Poland’s coach, who has been in this position since 2019 after starting his coaching career in 2015.
A huge advantage for Poland will be their status as co-hosts, as they will play their matches at home until the final, provided they reach that phase of the championship. Their preliminary round group will be hosted by Katowice, while a berth in the main round will see them play in Krakow.
If they progress to the knockout phase, Poland will play in Gdansk. But, as Rombel stated, they will take it one step at a time, enjoying such an event on their home courts.
“Polish fans are amazing and they always help the team play better and better, irrespective of the sport. You saw it in volleyball, and you can see it in handball. They will give us that extra 5-10% that we need to achieve something amazing.”
“We will also be playing for them. Our players will surely feel the energy from the crowd; it was the same in the previous friendly matches we played here in the last few weeks,” concludes Rombel.
There is certainly a fair amount of pride and togetherness as Poland will host the IHF Men’s World Championship for the first time. But it is not the first major event to take place in Poland. The last time they featured as hosts, at the EHF EURO 2016, the “Bialo-Czerwony” finished in seventh place, being eliminated in the main round.
Poland will surely give their all to avoid such a disappointing scenario. Their friendly matches have been encouraging with five wins and a single loss against Tunisia, which Rombel described as a bad match that will not happen again.
“We are always starting slower, but we are ready to get up to par. This time, we will try to play at our best level from the start,” said Poland’s coach.