France face a tough journey to the main draw having lost their first game to South Korea ©IHF

Defending champions France had the worst possible start to their International Handball Federation (IHF) Women's Handball World Championship, losing to South Korea 29-27.

The 24th edition of the event in Shibuya, Japan, is being hosted in four venues, and if today's results are anything to go by, the competition is wide open.

Group B is at Yamaga City Overall Gymnasium, with France drawn with South Korea, Germany, Denmark, Australia and Brazil.

The French have come into the tournament off the back of three victories at the Japan Cup, but were stunned 29-27 by South Korea, despite leading 13-12 at halftime.

Germany enjoyed a tight win over Brazil, 30-24, while Denmark went to the top of the group with a convincing 37-12 victory against Australia.

In Group A, the Netherlands would have fancied their chances against Slovenia having taken home bronze at the same event two years ago, but the form-book was thrown out of the window at Aqua Dome Kumamoto.

The European playoff qualifiers pulled off a stunning 32-26 win.

The hosts held on to defeat Argentina 24-20 ©IHF
The hosts held on to defeat Argentina 24-20 ©IHF

Also in Group A, Serbia were too strong for Angola (32-25), while Norway, who lost 23-21 to France in the World Championship final two years ago, overwhelmed Cuba 47-16.

Hungary made a strong start in Group C at Yatsushiro General Gymnasium, defeating Kazakhstan 39-15.

Spain had little trouble disposing of Romania 31-16, while Montenegro edged Senegal 29-25.

The hosts handled the pressure of home expectation at Park Dome Kumamoto, but only just, defeating Argentina in Group D, 24-20.

In what promises to be a very competitive group, Russia triumphed against China 26-11.

Sweden will be pleased to have negotiated DR Congo 26-16.

The top-three teams from each group will progress to the main draw, involving two pools of six teams, before the knockout stages – the final is on December 15.