A goalkeeper lying horizontally in the air and deflecting the ball with his toes;

the same goalkeeper who tugs at the opponent and lifts him up like wrestling to get the ball – these were two scenes from this handball world championship in Sweden and Poland that went viral.

The protagonist on both occasions was Andreas Palicka in Sweden's main round win over Iceland.

The keeper, who is usually so calm outside the field, likes to become a mood volcano on the field and pushes the entire team.

The 36-year-old goalkeeper has long been one of the best players in the Swedish team;

he's been one of the faces of handball in Sweden since beating Spain in the European Championship final in Budapest a year ago when Palicka made a fantastic save.

Even if Palicka sometimes seems a little emotional when games get tight, his gestures, saves and explosive celebrations are very entertaining.

Make amends for 2020

Three victories in the group games in Gothenburg, then three more successes in the main round, also in the "Scandinavium": the Swedes around their leaders Jim Gottfridsson (SG Flensburg-Handewitt) and Max Darj (Füchse Berlin) have so far been relaxed due to their home World Cup came.

This tournament is also a make-up for Euro 2020, when the Swedes finished seventh after a preliminary round loss to Slovenia and missed the finals at Stockholm's Tele2 Arena - where 20,000 fans should have cheered them on.

Three years later, coach Glenn Solberg's team looks ready for the title.

Solberg, the 50-year-old Norwegian, took over the Swedes after the EM 2020 and then led them to medals at the World Cup, the Olympic Games and the European Championship.

On the way there, his team in Stockholm must defeat Egypt in the quarter-finals this Wednesday (8.30 p.m. in the FAZ live ticker for the handball world championship and on Eurosport).

Solberg draws from many experienced and talented professionals.

Traditionally, the best young players come from southern Sweden, where handball is very popular in Lund, Ystad, Malmö and Helsingborg.

The Gothenburg region is also catching up, while ice hockey becomes more popular the further north you go in Sweden.

Handball is always a TV sport: When Gottfridsson and Co. beat Spain a year ago, the ratings skyrocketed to 70 percent.

The fact that handball in Sweden can keep up with football and ice hockey is due to the great successes of the 1990s.

With legendary coach Bengt Johansson, the Swedes won the World Cup in 1990 and 1999.

Many international matches were broadcast on television, and the formative players of those years, such as Magnus Wislander, Staffan Olsson and Stefan Lövgren, weren't stars, but fellow citizens you could touch.

Coach Johansson trusted them, let them decide, listened to them.

A method that Solberg also trusts: "Important values ​​for us are respect, collegiality and trust," he said of the "Handball Week".

But the Swedes, like the Germans, also had dark years, did not take part in the World Cup twice and rarely achieved top rankings between 2003 and 2019.

There was always some talent, but little breadth and, above all, hardly any top players in the teams.

That changed with Gottfridsson's team.

The most valuable player of the 2021 World Cup and the EM 2022 is at the age of 30 at the peak of creativity.

After a moderate start to the Bundesliga season, he found his form just in time for the World Cup.

Next to him, 22-year-old Eric Johansson from Kiel stands out with his throwing power.

And the left-hander position is also well occupied with Felix Claar and Albin Lagergren.

Across the field, Solberg was spoiled for choice when it came to assembling the roster.

And from the teams that came second in the World Cup in 2002 and 2004, the next great talents are already queuing up.

In the country of handball, the hunger for live sport after the pandemic is great.

Stefan Lövgren is hoping for a "huge boost" for his sport from this 28th World Championship.

The smart Swede is head of the organizing committee and, as one of the defining characters of Swedish handball, also an advertising figure.

The 52-year-old Lövgren fills this role seemingly effortlessly.

What he wishes above all: that after this world fair many little Swedes find their way to handball and emulate their role models.