2024 European Championship Power rankings: Best teams ahead of the Main round

The main round of the 2024 European Championship is finally here. Ola Selby of GoHandball ranks the 12 teams ahead of the Main round.

Power rankings are our ranking of which of the teams have been the hottest so far. A team that has lost one game can be considered a better team than a team that has gone undefeated. It’s all about the quality of the teams.

Here are the Power rankings – Ola Selbys ranking of the Main round teams.

1: Denmark

Ranking before the European Championship: Gold.

Nikolaj Jacobsen and Mikkel Hansen. Photo: Jesper Zerman / BILDBYRÅN

Denmark’s first half against Czechia was weak. Was there a new 2020 Euros on the way for Denmark, where they lost against Iceland in the opener and then had to leave the tournament unusually early? No, it never happened this time around. Emil Nielsen got some playing time in the second half and only let 5 goals in, which caused Denmark to win comfortably in the end.

Then it was time for a game against Greece and Denmark destroyed them, winning 40–28, even though Nikolaj Jacobsen rested some of his stars. And in the third and final game in the Preliminary round Denmark beat Portugal, mainly thanks to Mathias Gidsel. Between minute 45 and 51 the right back scored 8 goals. 8!

My point here is that Denmark can win in so many different ways. And that’s why there is no reason for me to change my pick before the Euros: Denmark will bring home the gold once more.

2: France

Ranking before the European Championship: Silver.

Hugo Descat of France. Photo: Johanna Lundberg / BILDBYRÅN

Only a draw against Switzerland and I still rank France as the second-best team before the Main round, ahead of Sweden? I believe that France has been put more to the test than Sweden has and that’s why I think that France is a tiny bit better than Sweden.

Yes, Sweden defeated the Netherlands but France won against Germany in Berlin. And that does it for me in this ranking.

One interesting fact about France is the fact that they usually improve during the tournament. Players like Elohim Prandi, Dika Mem, and Nedim Remili have a lot more to give and they will probably show that in the coming games.

3: Sweden

Ranking before the European Championship: 4.

Andreas Palicka. Photo: Ludvig Thunman / BILDBYRÅN

Sweden took care of business against Bosnia & Herzegovina and Georgia, just as they should. But against the Netherlands it took several super saves by Andreas Palicka to prevent a loss.

But, just as with France, Sweden has a lot more to give. Jim Gottfridsson, Albin Lagergren, Eric Johansson, Tobias Thulin, and Hampus Wanne have not shown their best form yet. And Sweden still has won all 3 games (no, the opposition hasn’t exactly been top teams but still).

Sweden could very well be a better side than France and for Sweden it’s nice that Spain is out of the competition. But as of now, I have to rank Sweden as the third-best team.

4: Germany

Ranking before the European Championship: Out in the Main round.

Juri Knorr of Germany. Photo: Petter Arvidson / BILDBYRÅN

27–14 against Switzerland and 34–25 against North Macedonia was a great start for Germany. No, that is not the strongest of opponents but it was still impressive performances. And it has been as expected for Germany: Andreas Wolff and Juri Knorr have been their 2 best players so far. And Julian Köster has looked nice in defense.

But to give Germany a place in the top three they would have needed to win, or at least draw, against France. But they lost that game by 3 goals, simply because France looked a lot sharper when they needed to.

Still, Germany could end up with a medal in this European Championship. The road to a semi-final looks a bit more open now at least. It wouldn’t surprise me if the host nation won all their games in the Main round. And who wants to play Germany in a semi-final in Germany? That’s right – no-one.

5: Slovenia

Ranking before the European Championship: Out in the Main round.

Miha Zarabec of Slovenia. Photo: Mathias Bergeld / BILDBYRÅN

I had no faith in Slovenia before the European Championship. None at all. It’s a team where several players are not getting better and the young players need more time.

But Slovenia has impressed me a lot. And when they have this start to a tournament, then they are a scary team to play. The best player so far for Slovenia? Aleks Vlah. It’s his team now.

6: Hungary

Ranking before the European Championship: Out in the Main round.

Bence Banhidi of Hungary. Photo: Mathias Bergeld / BILDBYRÅN

In what was called the toughest group of the 2024 European Championship Hungary won it all. 26–24 against Montenegro, 28–27 against Serbia, and 33–25 against Iceland says a lot.

Hungary is not Spain, meaning incredibly boring to watch, but it is not far from it either. An “unsexy” team with few exciting players. Bence Banhidi is the exception.

But this is a strong TEAM. And they are strong in defense. But Hungary could still end up as the fourth-best team in their group – in my opinion, France and Germany are the better teams, and Hungary and Croatia will need to fight for the third spot.

7: Croatia

Ranking before the European Championship: Out in the Main round.

Ivan Martinovic of Croatia during the EHF European Handball Championship. Photo: Ludvig Thunman / BILDBYRÅN.

I have always liked Croatian handball. And the crush did not go away after Hrvatska crushed Spain, winning 39–29 in the opener. I know that Spain underachieved in the 2024 Euros, but it was still a strong performance by Croatia.

What has impressed me with this side? Ivan Martinovic first and foremost. Unfortunately for him and for Croatia, he is out for the rest of the tournament with an injury. That makes Croatia’s path to a semi-final a lot harder. But there are more great players in this team – it’s not only Domagoj Duvnjak anymore.

Croatia can make it to the semi-final but the competition for the 2 spots is very tough with France, Germany, and Hungary all in the hunt.

8: Norway

Ranking before the European Championship: Out in the Main round.

Sander Sagosen of Norway. Photo: Simon Hastegård / BILDBYRÅN

Norway made it to the Main round but I still consider them to be the second biggest disappointment of the 2024 European Championship, after Spain. Everything can still pan out for Norway but then they probably need to defeat both Denmark and Sweden.

I have seen too little of Norway to have a clear idea of what’s gone wrong for them. But after 32–21 against Poland in their opener nobody thought that in the two following games against the Faroe Islands and Slovenia, Norway would only get one (lucky) point.

Sure, Magnus Rød is injured again, and that is horrible news for Norway. But we should all expect more of this team. Maybe they get it together in the Main round, but I doubt it.

9: Iceland

Ranking before the European Championship: Out in the Main round.

Gisli Kristjánsson. Photo: Carl Sandin / BILDBYRÅN

What has happened with Iceland’s attacking play? It charmed everyone a year ago and it still consists of the same players. And yet it has looked awful from time to time during the Euros. How did that happen? Sure, Gisli Kristjansson has been injured for a long time, Aron Palmarsson is not playing for a top club team anymore, and Omar Ingi Magnusson is not the same player he was one and a half year ago.

The head coach is new. Snorri Gudjonsson has replaced the ever-angry Gudmundur Gudmundsson, but “Gummi” was not an offensive-minded genius so I don’t think it’s that either.

What is obvious on the other hand is that the star players are not performing at the same level as they have in the past. And that Iceland still only uses a fraction of their great squad. There are so many skilled players on the bench that are not being used as much as they could.

10: The Netherlands

Ranking before the European Championship: Out in the Main round.

Luc Steins of the Netherlands. Photo: Ludvig Thunman / BILDBYRÅN

Maybe the Netherlands deserved a higher ranking than this. After all, they defeated Georgia and Bosnia & Herzegovina without blinking an eye and pressured the reigning European champions from Sweden to the finish line (and probably should have won that game).

They have taken a clear step forward during this tournament. And without Kay Smits. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Netherlands defeated Portugal and/or Norway, and that would be a huge success for them.

And with Luc Steins on your team, anything is possible.

11: Portugal

Ranking before the European Championship: Out in the Main round.

Francisco Costa. Photo (archive): Michael Erichsen / BILDBYRÅN.

It’s all about the Costa brothers. In the opener against Greece “Kiko” was Portugal’s best scorer with his 6 goals. And after that, the side-stepped older brother Martim took over. 11 goals against Czechia and 9 against Denmark. Wow!

Besides the 2 brothers, this is not a team that will have much chance in the Main round. They are not good enough defensively and among the back court players no-one else has delivered.

The only game I believe that Portugal can win is against the Netherlands, and they are not the clear favorite in that game either.

12: Austria

Ranking before the European Championship: Out in the Preliminary round.

Lukas Hutecek and Sebastian Frimmel of Austria. Photo: Ludvig Thunman / BILDBYRÅN

There is not a soul on this planet that thought that Austria would make it past the Preliminary round. Not with Spain and Croatia in the same group. And if Austria would beat the odds and finish as one of the 2 best teams in the group, it would be ahead of Croatia, not Spain. But Austria got a draw against Spain and a deserved place in the Main round.

It’s a huge success for Austrian handball to make it this far. But it’s just as obvious that the fun ends here. Austria will lose all 4 games – but what does that matter? They are one of the 12 best teams in Europe.