Who will be the most valuable player in 2023 IHF Men’s Handball World Championship in Poland and Sweden?
There have been 13 previous Best Player awards at the Men’s World Championships and, except Talent Duyshebaev in 1997, they were all from teams that reached the finals of the competition.
Seven switched to centre-backs, including two each for Croatia Ivano Balic and a French superstar Nikola Karabatic.
Mikkel Hansen, who took home the award in 2013, 2019 and 2021, is the only defender to take home the award. He’s back on the run as Denmark fights for a third consecutive world title.
Only one goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer in 2015, he was named MVP with two axes – Christian Schwarzer (2003) and Igor Vori (2009) – gong protection.
Read on for our shortlist of six contenders for this year’s title.
IHF Men’s Handball World Championship 2023: All Scores, Results and Group Table
|1997||Talent Duyshebaev||Central defender||Spain|
|1999||Stefan Lövgren||Central defender||Sweden|
|2001||Stefan Lövgren||Central defender||Sweden|
|2003||Christian Schwarzer||line player||Germany|
|2005||Ivano Balic||Central defender||Croatia|
|2007||Ivano Balic||Central defender||Croatia|
|2009||Igor Vori||line player||Croatia|
|2011||Nikola Karabatic||Central defender||France|
|2013||Mikkel Hansen||Left defender||Denmark|
|2017||Nikola Karabatic||Central defender||France|
|2019||Mikkel Hansen||Left defender||Denmark|
|2021||Mikkel Hansen||Left defender||Denmark|
Alex Duyshebaev (Spain)
The first World Cup MVP, Talant Dujshebaev, has two sons in Spain’s 2023 World Cup squad.
Both Alex and Daniel play under it at Lomza Industria Kielcewith the former being the undoubted star of both the national team and the clubs.
Couple won European titles in 2018 and 2020something father Talant never achieved and won bronze at the last World Championships.
Right-back Alex also won bronze at Tokyo 2020 in 2021 but missed EHF EURO 2022 to rest his shoulder and avoid surgery.
He showed the wisdom of this decision, putting on consistently excellent performances to lead Kielce to the EHF Champions League final, where they suffered a heartbreaking loss to Barça on penalties.
Now 30-year-old Alex could almost single-handedly turn the tide and join the superstars of the sport if he led Los Hispanos to their third world title and first since 2013.
Mikkel Hansen (Denmark)
Already the man with the most World Championship MVP awards with three, Mikkel Hansen can give four in Poland and Sweden.
The Olympic gold medalist from Rio 2016 joined Aalborg last summer after ten years at Paris Saint-Germain and at 35 he shows no signs of decline.
With 60 goals, he is Aalborg’s top scorer this season in the EHF Champions League, going head-to-head with GOG at the top of the Danish league.
Arguably the greatest left-back in football history, Hansen has been named the IHF World Player of the Year three times – 2011, 2015, 2018 – and hopes to lead Denmark to a third consecutive world title.
Thanks to his famous, powerful strike, Hansen is sure to be in the goal of this tournament once again. But he’s not the only Dane to win this award with Maciej Gidzel named Tokyo 2020 MVP in 2021 and goalkeeper Niklas Landin reigning two-time IHF Player of the Year.
Talented Mr. Hansen: An artist on the court
Sander Sagosen (Norway)
Will the Norwegians be able to return to the podium at the important handball competition in Stockholm?
They were defeated in the quarterfinals of the last three: a trip to Spain for the 2021 World Cup, Denmark for Tokyo 2020 in 2021 and losing one to Sweden at the 2022 European Championship when a win would put them through to the semi-finals at the expense of the eventual winners.
With an instinctive sense of goal and spotting opportunities to set up teammates, Sander Sagosen In recent years, he has been one of the top players in world handball and led Norway to silver medals at the 2017 and 2019 World Championships.
Although he has one EHF Champions League title under his belt – with THW Kiel in the Covid-interrupted 2020 edition that started with Paris Saint-Germain – perhaps he is missing big trophies compared to Hansen and Karabatic.
He’s 27 and still has plenty of time. And his teammates are mostly 30 or under with the notable exceptions of Aalborg’s starwings Kristian Bjørnsen (33) and Sebastian Barthold (31).
Sagosen broke his left ankle in June, which ruled him out of the EHF Champions League Final Four, but returned to action in late November and showed good spirits, scoring six goals in a Champions League win over Hansen’s Aalborg last month.
For so long, the almost men of world handball, unlike the Norwegians who beat almost everyone before them, this may be the year Sagosen and associates put it together and won their first major title.
Jim Gottfridsson (Sweden)
After leading Sweden to EHF EURO 2022 glory and winning the MVP of the tournament – for the second time – Jim Gottfridsson he will want to repeat this trick at the world championships.
The powerful centre-back, who also possesses a deft touch and superb vision, is key to the Swedes’ chances as they fight for their first world title since the Bengan Boys triumph in 1999.
They can also count on significant support, most likely thanks to what looks like a very won Group C, all their matches are at home.
In addition to scoring goals himself, Gottfridsson will provide ammunition for the wings Hampus Bath and Niclas Ekberg who was top scorer in London 2012 where Sweden won silver.
At the 2021 World Cup SG Flensburg-Handewitt the star was named in the All-Star team as Sweden finished second again.
The 30-year-old will be desperate to go one better here and the nation expects the team to add 12 world medals to their record and perhaps claim a fifth title.
Ludovic Fabregas (France)
France boasts a number of contenders for MVP, including two-time winner Nikola Karabatic and dika meme.
Add Ludwik Fabregas on this list with clubmate Mem from Barça, who has become one of the leading pillars of European handball in recent years.
He was 21 when he was part of France’s Rio 2016 squad but had limited playing time with the All-Star team’s lineman Cedric Sorhaindo and Karabatic gap for company.
Five months later, he was instrumental in Les Experts’ home world title, scoring five goals in the quarter-final win over Sweden and two in the final against Norway.
This helped the proud Catalan to move from Montpellier to Barcelona, ??where he donned the famous Blaugrana shirt worn by footballers watched at the Camp Nou with his grandfather.
Kielce Santa Tournat he has since replaced Sorhaindo in the French roster, and the trio rotates more than efficiently.
This depth will prove invaluable in such a long and physically demanding tournament and the 26-year-old Fabregas has shown time and time again in the EHF Champions League what a great asset he is in attack and defence.
Omar Ingi Magnusson (Iceland)
Iceland is certainly in the mix for a World Cup top spot, with their only major medal previously being silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
With the bouncer Wiktor Hallgrimson he has already proven his worth, and so have they SG Magdeburg couple Omar Inga Magnusson and Gisli Thorgeir Kristjansson.
The pair joined Magdeburg in 2020 – Magnusson from Aalborg, Kristjansson from THW Kiel – and enjoyed great success, winning the EHF Europa League, two IHF Super Globes and last year’s German Bundesliga.
Magnusson was prolific during this time, with the right-back as deadly from long range as he was on the cut.
He scored 61 goals in 10 games this season in the EHF Champions League, including 12 in his most recent appearance in a 37-33 win over Paris Saint-Germain.
He was even dubbed “the new Olafur” in reference to the team’s former captain Olafur Stefansson who led the team to Beijing silver.
Magnusson is reigning two-time Icelandic athlete of the year although he has some work to do to match Stefansson’s four.
Winning the MVP award and placing Iceland on the podium would give him a great opportunity to close the gap.