Denmark qualified to the closing stages of the IHF Women's World Championships in Japan at the expense of defending champions France today in Japan ©IHF

World champions France failed to progress to the main round at the International Handball Federation Women's World Championship in Kumamoto, Japan, losing their final group match today.

Denmark claimed the third qualifying place in Group B after beating the Rio 2016 silver medallists 20-18 at the Kumamoto Prefectural Gymnasium.

France had arrived for their title defence in good heart, having won the four-sided Japan Cup in Tokyo - the Olympic Test event.

But their campaign got off to a disastrous start with a 27-29 defeat by South Korea, then a 19-19 draw with Brazil, and although they rallied with wins over Australia and Germany, they ultimately fell short.

South Korea and Germany finished first and second, respectively, in Group B after drawing 27-27 at the Yamaga City Overall Gymnasium.

In the other concluding Group B match, Brazil beat Australia 21-7.

Serbia edged into the main round draw with a 29-27 win over Slovenia to claim third place in Group A, behind Norway and The Netherlands.

The Netherlands drew level on eight points with Norway after beating them in their final game, 30-28, finishing top of the group by virtue of their head-to-head record.

It was the first time The Netherlands had beaten Norway since 1999.

The Netherlands celebrate their first win over Norway since 1999 ©IHF
The Netherlands celebrate their first win over Norway since 1999 ©IHF

In the other Group A match, Angola beat Cuba 40-30.

The host nation, already assured of a main round place, underlined their status with a concluding Group D win over China, 35-18.

Argentina's 25-16 victory over DR Congo would not have been enough to earn them progression even if Japan had lost their last match, as the hosts would have gone through on head-to-head record, having beaten the South American nation 24-20 in their opening game.

Russia and Sweden were already clear at the top of the group with eight points each, but their final match determined who would finish top, and Russia took that honour with a 30-22 victory.

Spain finished their qualifying matches with a flourish, beating Montenegro 27-26 to finish top of Group C on 10 points, with Montenegro second on eight and Romania earning third place with a 28-27 win over Hungary.

Senegal beat Kazakhstan 30-20 in the other Group C match.

The main draw now comprises two main groups in which the top two qualify for the semi-finals on December 13.

The Netherlands, with four points, and Germany, with three, currently occupy the top two places in Group I, with Russia and Spain, both on four points, topping Group II.