by Simon Daish
Group stage fixtures were announced for every division, with several standout encounters being drawn.
Defending champions Austria face a tough battle with the 2014 champions Portugal in Group B of the Men’s Championship Division in the eye-catching match of the group, while the two remaining group spots are occupied by Slovenia and the Slovak Republic.
Top seeds Germany are surely the favourites for the title in Luxembourg but Jörg Rosskopf’s team has been handed a tricky opening to the tournament after being placed in the same group as Croatia, Spain and Belarus.
Luxembourg was the lowest seeded team in the Men’s Championship Division draw and the host nation will have to be at its best to frustrate Sweden, Greece and Russia in Group C.
Rounding off the Men’s Championship Division is Group D which sees the fourth seeds France drawn alongside Romania, seeded two positions lower. Poland and Ukraine are the two other nations in the group.
The Women’s Championship Division also promises plenty of drama, and there are a number of exciting fixtures to keep a close eye on.
Romania achieved a silver medal finish at the 2015 edition of the European Championships, and the team which is set to feature the likes of Elizabeta Samara and Bernadette Szőcs has been handed meetings with the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Luxembourg in Group B.
Over in Group D Poland, fourth seeds, will face a duel with sixth seeds Russia along with fixtures against France and Belarus.
Similar to their male counterparts, the German women’s squad has been named as the top seeded team for the Women’s Championship Division and will be major contenders for success at the event, but there could be room for a potential upset for the defending champions in Group A with Hungary, Sweden and Croatia being drawn in the same group.
Arguably one of the most unpredictable groups is Group C of the Women’s Championship Division as Austria, seeded third, prepares to take on the eighth seeds Portugal, ninth seeds Ukraine and 13th seeds Spain for a place in the next round.
Bronze medallists at the Perfect 2016 World Team Championships England are surely contenders in the Men’s Challenge Division but will first have to negotiate group stage matches against Denmark, Netherlands and Ireland.
All eyes will be on the Slovak Republic in the Women’s Challenge Division with Barbora Balazova and her international colleagues being drawn with Lithuania, Switzerland and Finland.
The remaining nations will compete in the Men’s and Women’s Standard Divisions.
Latvia and Scotland head the two Men’s Standard Division groups, and Norway is the highest seeded team in the sole group of the Women’s Standard Division.