Sweden are the current European champions. GETTY IMAGES

Germany will host a new edition of the EHF European Men's Handball Championship from 10-28 January in six modern and spacious venues with Sweden as the defending champions after their controversial 27-26 victory over Spain in 2022.

Just as Denmark, Sweden and Norway hosted the Women's World Championship last December, the Men's European Championship will take place in January in another country that loves handball as much as Germany.

With gold in 2016 as their last European Championship medal, the German team, coached by the Icelandic Alfred Gislason, will be hoping to capitalise on the support of their fans to defy the odds and finish on the podium in an event where only the winner can qualify for the Olympic Games. However, with France and Denmark already qualified for Paris 2024, it could be the runners-up or third-placed teams who claim the prize.

One of the tournament's biggest attractions will be the opening match between Germany and Switzerland. Organisers have taken an ambitious risk by staging the opening match at the 54,000-seat Merkur Spiel-Arena, currently home to 2. Bundesliga side Fortuna Düsseldorf.

"If more than 50,000 fans attend the opening game in Düsseldorf (Germany v Switzerland), it will be a historic world record and the start of a gigantic handball party for which 'Here to celebrate' is the perfect motto!," commented Mark Schober, CEO of the German Handball Federation.

The Merkur Spiel-Arena will be the scene of a big handball party. FACEBOOK
The Merkur Spiel-Arena will be the scene of a big handball party. FACEBOOK

"Thousands of European fans will have a great opportunity to support their national teams in Germany, close to home. We expect a large number of away fans and people from other countries living in Germany. The arenas will be full whether the German team is playing or not. For example, all the matches on the final weekend of the 2017 Women's World Cup were sold out, with more than 11,000 fans in attendance, even though the German team did not qualify. Or look at the attendance at the VELUX EHF Final4 in Cologne", he added.

As further proof of Germany's love affair with handball, the organisers have announced that they have already sold 54,000 tickets, ranging in price from €26 to €131.50. This will be Germany's first time hosting a men's European Championship, but they won gold at the World Championship they hosted in 2017 with a 29-24 final win over Poland thanks to eight goals from 'Toto' Jansen.

Immediately after the game, the 'Stay to Celebrate Party' will start in the Merkur Spiel-Arena, with a live band and DJ, so handball fans don't have to leave the site of the record match and only have to walk a short distance inside the arena. It's going to be a great day for handball in the German cathedral, which attracts thousands of spectators to every game of the Bundesliga, the best competition in the world.

Much like the traditional NHL Winter Classic, which on 1 January 2024 will bring 50,000 spectators to Seattle's T-Mobile Park for a match between the Seattle Sharks and the Las Vegas Golden Knights, Düsseldorf will be a big handball party despite the cold weather, with temperatures expected to hover around zero.

But the Merkur Spiel-Arena won't be the only venue in the event. Germany also has the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin (14,800 spectators), the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg (13,300), the SAP Arena in Mannheim (13,200) and the Olympiahalle in Munich (12,150).

The temple of handball in Colonia will also host one of the two groups in the main round, as well as the semi-finals, third-place play-off and final. The Lanxess Arena, the traditional venue of the EHF Men's Champions League Final Four, is an impressive arena with a capacity of 18,500.

Germany are not among the favourites to win the gold medal. Everyone agrees that Denmark has the best team, with experienced players like goalkeeper Niklas Landin, left-back Mikkel Hansen (both of Aalborg, Denmark) and centre-back Rasmus Lauge (Veszprém, Hungary), and talented newcomers such as right-back Simon Pytlick (GOG, Denmark) and centre-back Mathias Gidsel (Füchse, Germany).

They are the reigning Olympic silver medallists and winners of the last three World Cups, but the silver medal they won in the last edition is their only medal in the last four European Championships.

Denmark's Mathias Gidsel is one of the world's top players. GETTY IMAGES
Denmark's Mathias Gidsel is one of the world's top players. GETTY IMAGES

France appear to be the main alternative. The reigning Olympic champions boast three FC Barcelona stars (Dika Mem, Melvyn Richardson and Timothey N'Guessan), veteran icon Nikola Karabatic (39, PSG, France), right-back Nedim Remili and pivot Ludovic Fàbregas (Borh Veszprém, Hungary).

And the rest of the field? Reigning champions Sweden will have a strong line-up with centre-back Jim Gottfridsson (Flensburg, Germany), right-back Lukas Sandell (Aalborg, Denmark), veteran right-back Niclas Ekberg (Kiel, Germany) and FC Barcelona players Hampus Wanne (left winger) and Jonathan Carlsbogard (left-back).

Last but not least is Spain, silver medallists at the last European Championship after two successive gold medals, with the great Jordi Ribera as coach and goalkeeper Gonzalo Perez de Vargas, right-winger Aleix Gomez (both FC Barcelona, Spain), left-back Alex Dujshebaev (Kielce, Poland) and centre-back Agustin Casado (Melsungen, Germany).