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Winning a gold medal in international competition for three years, the French handball team launches its season with the aim of recovering its European crown during Euro-2020. A first significant maturity, before the point of organ Summer Olympics 2020, Tokyo.
The time for reconquest has finally come. Deprived of the title for three years, the French handball players want to regain their supremacy on the occasion of Euro-2020, organized in Scandinavia, where their journey to the podium and a possible direct ticket to the Tokyo Games will be strewn with pitfalls .
The challenge begins on Friday (6:15 p.m. Paris time) in Trondheim, Norway, with a match largely within their reach against Portugal, but the case will quickly get worse as the Blues fell in the middle of the table. by far the most difficult.
To reach the last four, they will have to face the three great Scandinavian powers, all candidates for the gold medal, in front of their audience: Norway from Sunday in the first round then, if all goes well, Sweden in Malmö and Denmark in the same city, only separated from Copenhagen by a stretch of sea spanned by a bridge.
This Euro offers the possibility of a shortcut to Tokyo in the event of a title or defeat in the final against the Danes, already qualified since their coronation last year. But the pressure of the Olympic stake must be put into perspective because if they do not win their ticket this month, the French have a very good chance of achieving it in April in a TQO (Olympic qualification tournament) which will take place in a favorable context, at Paris-Bercy, against Croatia, in the second of the African Championship and a European nation which is not among the best, with two qualified out of four.
“We are the France team”
“The Games are in the back of our mind, that’s normal. But today, we’re not world champions, we’re not European champions, we have to go get the best result possible. This is the legacy of our elders. It is the France team, “said right-back Nedim Remili.
The key is therefore to know if France, which holds no title for the first time in twelve years, has the means to resettle at the top of world handball, which it has occupied for almost a decade (two titles Olympic, three European and four World Championships between 2006 and 2017) before being dislodged by Denmark.
At the World-2019, as the Euro-2018, the Blues are mounted on the third place. A meritorious result (that’s four medals in a row and six in the last seven major tournaments), but which cannot satisfy them. “No longer winning, it stings a little,” admits Valentin Porte.
The amalgam of two generations
“On paper, in terms of staff, I am convinced that we have the means to win again. That said, it’s been two or three years that we are in reconstruction; we should have put the walls and not to be far from the finishing touches. The semi-finals are good, but each time we were walked on (by Spain in 2018 and by Denmark in 2019). It shows what we have to work on “, continues the Montpellier winger.
The task of coach Didier Dinart is to succeed in amalgamating old men who are not getting younger – Nikola Karabatic, Luc Abalo, Michaël Guigou and Cédric Sorhaindo are all over 35 years old – and young people who need to gain experience (Dika Mem, Ludovic Fabregas Romain Lagarde, and a fortiori the newest Elohim Prandi). He will be deprived of two members of the intermediate generation, the half-center Kentin Mahé and the pivot Luka Karabatic, even if the latter, who is recovering from a finger injury, is on an extended list for a possible integration in progress. tournament.
Much will also depend on their level of mental investment in a pre-Olympic Euro, which is suitable for surprises where those who do not project themselves too much towards the following summer are more likely to succeed. In the previous two, in 2012 and 2016, the French, reigning world champions and favorites for the coming Games, had completely missed out. This time, the context is totally different and could offer them a gap in which to engulf.