Slovenia opening World Handball Championship campaign
Katowice, 12 January - Slovenia will open the World Men's Handball Championship campaign in Poland's Katowice on Thursday against Saudi Arabia in what will be the nation's tenth appearance on the global stage. Slovenia are cautious not to be overly ambitious, with progress to the main round being set as the principal goal under new head coach Uroš Zorman.
In the preliminary round, Slovenia plays in Group B, which also features the hosts Poland and France, the fourth-place team from the previous world championship.
After what is considered to be an easy opponent to open the tournament, Slovenia will play Poland on Saturday and France next Monday.
The team did not qualify directly for the tournament as it failed in the qualifiers, and instead received one of the two wild cards awarded by the Council of the International Handball Federation (IHF).
The tournament comes as Slovenia having experiences some turmoil in their ranks following failed campaigns at the European championship last January and in the qualifiers for the world championship, which will also take place in Sweden.
A coaching change was made after the European championship in Hungary and Slovakia, with Serbian-Swedish coach Ljubomir Vranješ replaced by Uroš Zorman, who played 225 matches for the Slovenian national team and scored 523 goals.
The ambition is not very high, as the primary goal is making it out of the group stage and into the main round, for which Slovenia will have to finish in the top three in the group.
"The most important thing is that the lads who are here want to play. I'm happy that we have 18 players with that kind of attitude," Zorman said ahead of departure to Poland, admitting that Slovenia were not among the favourites.
"We have to be humble, respect everyone, while at the same be aware that we are capable of doing something, but this will be possible only if we are united and aggressive and if we playing for each other. We have to work hard," he added.
Captain Jure Dolenec said the most important thing was to work on motivation and to start the tournament with positive energy. "Success will come, perhaps even now, and perhaps at future tournaments," he added.
If they make it to the main round, Slovenia will play in Group A in Krakow on 18-22 January against the top three teams from Group A, which features Spain, the bronze-medallists from the previous championship, Montenegro, Chile and Iran.
With the new coach, Slovenia will be looking to improve on their result from the 2021 world championship in Egypt, when they finished 9th, and come closer to their best result ever, the bronze medal from France in 2017.