With the expansion of the EHF EURO to 24 teams, there are a plethora of possible line-ups in the preliminary round.
Here the focus is on the 12 teams in Pots 1 and 2, featuring a number of the world’s top sides and those who performed above expectations at EHF EURO 2018.
Below is a breakdown of who they could end up facing and which opponents would offer the most interesting storylines ahead of the draw event on Friday 28 June at 18:45 hrs at Erste Bank Campus in Vienna. The draw will be streamed live on the EHF EURO YouTube channel and the EHF EURO Facebook page.
POT 2: Norway, Slovenia, Germany, North Macedonia, Hungary, Belarus
This year’s World Championship finalists Norway have been knocking on the door of the medal positions in recent years and will hope home advantage in the preliminary round will lay the foundation for a strong championship. Spain, France and Czech Republic are potential visitors to Trondheim from Pot 1. Scandinavian neighbours Denmark and Sweden are likely main round opponents.
Slovenia’s frustrating campaign two years ago began in the preliminary round against Germany and North Macedonia, who they will definitely avoid this time around. Playing in Austria would be ideal for Slovenia and there is a 33 per cent chance of that happening, which would also mean a derby against either Austria or Croatia.
2016 champions Germany have been placed in Group C, taking place in Trondheim, which means their opponents from Pot 1 will be Spain, France or Czech Republic. The potential for derby clashes is not in short supply, with Switzerland waiting in Pot 3 as well as Poland and Netherlands in Pot 4.
After being knocked out of January’s World Championship by Iceland (Pot 3), North Macedonia were able to gain a measure of revenge during qualification, but victory over them again at a championship would be even sweeter. Spain, Denmark and Czech Republic all beat them in the main round two years ago and there is a 50 per cent chance of being drawn against one of the Pot 1 sides in the preliminary round.
Hungary have shown plenty of promise since they were dumped out after three losses two years ago. They can only face one of their 2018 group rivals Denmark, Spain and Czech Republic as all are in Pot 1. Their fans would enjoy being placed in one of the Austrian groups, where neighbours Croatia and Austria await.
Belarus have a 50 per cent chance of being drawn against a neighbour from Pot 4, Poland, Russia or Ukraine, while another potential derby is Latvia in Pot 3. Austria have become their familiar foes in recent years and fate could pair these sides again in the preliminary round.
POT 1: Spain, Sweden, France, Denmark, Croatia, Czech Republic
Reigning champions Spain have a two-in-three chance of heading to Trondheim for the preliminary round, but that would mean facing one of the two most daunting Pot 2 sides – Germany and Norway. The alternative is a trip to Austria to face the hosts, where they suffered their one and only defeat en route to winning the EHF EURO Cup.
2018 silver medallists Sweden have the added boost of home advantage throughout the competition as they hope to go one step further in 2020. They will be joined in Gothenburg by either Slovenia, North Macedonia, Hungary or Belarus from Pot 2, before the likely Scandinavian derbies against Denmark and Norway in the main round.
Following two bronze medals in the past two years, France’s mix of rising stars and household names will be targeting a final this time around and there is a two-in-three chance of beginning their journey in Trondheim. Should that be the case, they will renew their rivalries with Germany or Norway, clashes which have produced some great entertainment in recent years.
World Champions Denmark will not have to travel far for most of the championship, as they hop over the Öresund bridge to Malmö. There is a small chance of facing two sides they met in qualification, Ukraine (Pot 4) and Montenegro (Pot 3), while facing Sweden and Norway in the main round would be a welcome case of déjà vu as they met at this stage in January, although this time they will not have home advantage on their side.
Croatia will begin their EHF EURO 2020 journey in Graz, where there is a 50 per cent chance of them being joined by neighbours Hungary or Slovenia from Pot 2. Group A could also become a very Balkan affair if they are joined by Montenegro (Pot 3), Serbia or Bosnia Herzegovina (Pot 4).
Czech Republic were one of the surprise packages of EHF EURO 2018 and were duly rewarded with a place in Pot 1. There is a 33 per cent chance they will end up alongside neighbours Trondheim, but a short trip down the road to face Austria in Vienna would be favourable and equally as likely.