Cairo (AFP)

Egypt got off to a good start in the Men's Handball World Cup, which they play at home and behind closed doors, by dominating Chile 35-29 Wednesday in Cairo in the opening match.

The Egyptians temporarily take the lead of Group G, of which Sweden remains favorite and where North Macedonia replaced the Czech Republic on Tuesday, which withdrew at the last moment due to massive contamination of its workforce with Covid-19 .

Drafted at the last minute, the Macedonians will challenge the Swedes on Thursday in the huge Cairo hall (17,000 seats) deprived of spectators.

The Egyptian authorities, directly involved in the organization of the event, and the International Federation, chaired by the Egyptian Hassan Moustafa, did everything to keep this first edition to 32 teams despite the resurgence of the pandemic which has already been right. the participation of the Czechs and the Americans, the latter being replaced by the Swiss.

"Our message is this: this is how the world is now able to adapt to the new reality that the coronavirus pandemic has imposed on us," President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said at the opening ceremony.

The Egyptian organizers resigned themselves Sunday, three days before this match, to playing the event behind closed doors after having counted on a gauge of 30 and then 20% of spectators.

Three of the four rooms had, however, been built specifically for the occasion.

“The worst scenario for handball would have been to cancel the tournament, so we decided to play without supporters,” said Hassan Moustafa.

The 32 teams are divided into 8 pools of 4 in the first round, each group having been assigned to a stadium and a hotel theoretically transformed into a health bubble.

The final will take place on January 31 in Cairo.

Denmark, reigning champion, Norway, finalist of the last edition, and Spain, European champion, form a first trio of favorites, followed by Croatia, Slovenia, France, Germany and Sweden .

© 2021 AFP