With today's knowledge, one looks back longingly at the Handball World Championship 2019 in Denmark and Germany.

As far as the general conditions are concerned - before the pandemic, without the war in Europe - but also in sporting terms: The selection of the German Handball Association (DHB) came fourth and thrilled the audience in many games until the defeat against Norway in the semi-finals in Hamburg.

In terms of atmosphere, the World Cup of the northern neighbors was a complete success anyway: The enthusiasm shown for handball in the arenas of Herning and Cologne is still a valid argument for the organizers DHB and DHF (Danish Handball Association) for further applications for major events.

At that time, the World Handball Federation IHF could rely on full halls on both sides of the border.

After the subsequent world trade fair in Egypt, which was completely dominated by the pandemic in 2021, there should now be a largely return to normality.

The 28th Men's World Cup begins this Wednesday evening with the match between Poland and France in Katowice.

As in 2019, the IHF has decided to use two hosts.

Sweden hosts four preliminary round groups in Gothenburg, Kristianstad, Jönköping and Malmö.

Poland initially offers up the host cities of Katowice and Kraków.

Danzig will join them in the knockout rounds until the new, or perhaps old, world champions are confirmed in Stockholm on January 29 should Denmark triumph.

PCR testing and isolation

But even with the "back to normality" it becomes difficult to confusing, because the world association has imposed a strict hygiene concept with PCR tests and five-day isolation in the event of a corona infection on its most valuable tournament, which does not fit in with everyday life in Poland and Sweden want.

In both countries there are no longer any corona restrictions, in Sweden Corona has no longer been classified as a “disease that is dangerous to society” since April.

This has led to astonishment and incomprehension.

"I was surprised by that," said German national goalkeeper Andreas Wolff, "because Corona really doesn't play a role in Poland anymore." Wolff has been working in Kielce since summer 2019.

The criticism from Sweden was sharper.

"It's a damn shame when you play the World Cup at home and can't live like we're living in Sweden right now," Swedish assistant coach Michael Apelgren told Aftonbladet.

How should the Swedish European champions promote their sport if there are no autograph sessions with children and no selfies with fans after the game?

Nobody wants to hang the topic that high at the DHB, possibly also because, as you can hear in the background, further negotiations are ongoing with the IHF regarding the hygiene concept.

DHB sports director Axel Kromer said: "Maybe it will be readjusted.

I don't see the concept as particularly sharp either.

We will be allowed to move around normally like all other citizens in Sweden and Poland.

Should there be corona infections, players will not have to stay alone in their rooms, as was the case in Bratislava.

There will only be isolation if there are symptoms.”

In Slovakia at the European Championships a year ago, there was a mass outbreak in the German team plus staff.

Understandably, Kromer would like to push away thoughts of this: “It will be a World Cup like before the pandemic,” he says, “we can behave normally as a team, in the hotel, between games, with our roommates.” In the “Novotel Katowice Centrum” he occupies DHB entourage instead of singles - again the popular double rooms;

seven other teams are also housed there.

The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine casts its shadow even on an event like this World Handball Championship that is relatively insignificant on a global scale.

After a rocket hit eastern Poland in mid-November, the IHF and the local organizing committee were concerned – and gave the all-clear.

"We are convinced that as a member of the EU and NATO, we will not face any serious threats to the World Cup," Bogdan Sojkin, president of the Polish organizing committee, told Handball Inside magazine.

However, both organizers and the IHF still had to deal with the war in Europe.

The mascot of the title fights was created under this impression.

The squirrel with the big eyes is called "Pax" after a fan vote.

With this, according to the World Cup Organizing Committee, both countries expressed their desire for the conflict to end.