The Russian Handball Federation Team looks to exceed expectations at the upcoming World Championship ©IHF

The Russian Handball Federation Team is seeking a return to past glories during the 2021 International Handball Federation (IHF) World Men's Handball Championship in Egypt later this month.

The tournament will be the first where Russia will compete as neutrals since the nation's flag and anthem were banned from major events for the next two years in December.

The decision was made after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld sanctions imposed on Russia by the World Anti-Doping Agency - but CAS halved the sanction period from four years to two.

All major competitions set to feature Russian teams must now be regarded as neutral teams, separate from the "Russia" name.

This includes abbreviations, flags and names on uniform with competitors being regarded as "neutral athletes" rather than part of a Russian team.

Despite not officially representing Russia, many of the players and its staff will look to replicate some of its past successes.

Russia was once a titan of handball, but could only qualify for the Championship as a wild card after struggling in recent years.

European champions in 1996, Russia also won the World Championship in 1993 and 1997, as well as Olympic gold at Sydney 2000.

The nation's bronze at Athens 2004 remains their last major medal and the country has not qualified in men's handball for the past three Olympics.

Now new coach Velimir Petkovic wants to improve the nation's results after replacing Eduard Koksharov, who could not turn around their fortunes at the 2020 European Championship.

"If I hadn't been optimistic about a team with such a rich handball tradition, I wouldn't have taken this job," said Petkovic.

His first games as coach came only in November due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they included a victory and a draw with Ukraine as part of the European Handball Federation (EHF) EURO 2022 qualifiers.

Egypt will host the Men's World Handball Championship for the first time since 1999 ©IHF
Egypt will host the Men's World Handball Championship for the first time since 1999 ©IHF

The Russian Handball Federation Team has been drawn alongside Belarus, Slovenia and South Korea at the upcoming World Championship.

Petkovic believes his team has a "good chance to qualify to the next round", while goalkeeper Viktor Kireev will look to excel again in Egypt.

"It makes no difference with whom we will play," said Kireev. 

"We have to show our maximum in every match and prove that we can play with the world's top teams, even though we qualified through the wild card.

"We dream of something big, not just to come and play - we play at every tournament and every time we lack something.

"I dream of qualifying from the group and advancing as far as possible."

The IHF 2021 World Men's Handball Championship is scheduled to take place from January 13 to 31.