World Men’s Handball Championship: Les Bleus have completed yet another exceptional journey!

Monday, 30 january 2023

The French men’s handball team, supported by the Caisse d’Epargne, came up short against Denmark (34-29) in the final of the handball World Cup. During this international tournament, Guillaume Gille managed to forge a close-knit group of players who put up an exceptional performance and created an extremely strong foundation for the months to come.

Successful adaptation of the coaching staff

Once again, the French Handball Team reached the final of a major competition.  Two months after Olivier Krumbholz’s women’s team came 3rd in the 2022 European Championships, the players coached by Guillaume Gille reached the final of the men’s world championships staged in Poland and Sweden. It is exceptional to see this type of regularity achieved by French handball teams at such an extremely high level. One year and a half after being crowned Olympic champions, the French men’s handball team once again confirms its rank as one of the two best teams worldwide in their sport. They demonstrated this status by remaining unbowed in the group stage, with a fine victory over the Spanish and, above all, a victory against the Swedes in the semi-finals hosted in the Tele2 Arena in Stockholm in front of 20,000 highly enthusiastic fans. The French put up a masterly performance (31-26) that was all the more impressive considering how difficult it had been for Guillaume Gille and his assistant Eric Mathé to complete their selection in the face of a long spate of injuries. The French men’s team suffered seven injuries before the competition, without counting the hand issues facing Thibaut Briet, a brilliant up-and-coming new player, and the physical problems affecting Porte, Prandi, Mem, and Nikola Karabatic… The question even became particularly delicate for the left back position…

The coaching staff had to adapt constantly, and successfully placed Nedim Remili in the dribbling attack position alongside Kentin Mahé. Despite all these hurdles – and thanks to all this hard work – the team continued to rack up successes. Gille and his assistants managed to solve the tactical problems while simultaneously creating a mindset unanimously applauded by all the players, particularly by Nikola Karabatic who has a wealth of experience in this area. The different technical and tactical solutions provided by this group cohesion propelled the French all the way to the final.

A complementary group of up-and-coming and well-established players

Ultimately, the Danes would take their revenge on the French who had beaten them into second place in the final of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2021. This time, however, Mikkel Hansen’s teammates held Guillaume Gille’s players in check with, in particular, a cast-iron defense and a formidable back line.  On the French side, the central defense made up of the two gigantic players Ludovic Fabregas and Luka Karabatic – who had proved impenetrable throughout the tournament until then – were powerless to withstand the strength of the Danish attacks… which began from the very start of the match and rapidly left the French 4 goals behind. Gille responded by switching the goalkeeper and the penalty taker and, subsequently, by changing the back line. You have to give the French credit for hanging on, and even for clawing their way back to equality but, in this final, the Danes turn out to be the stronger contestant. But the French team knows that the greatest prize of all is yet to come: the Olympic Games Paris 2024 in 18 months’ time. This recent experience should leave them feeling extremely confident, and the fact of losing this final should simply sharpen their determination to win and, in the words of Karabatic: “we must make full use of this anger!” Gille has managed to put together a talented, close-knit, and highly adaptable squad with real complementarity between the young, up-and-coming talents and the more experienced players, and he will also benefit from the return of his injured players. There’s a wealth of positive points to emerge from this World Cup!

Proud to be a major partner of the French Handball Federation since 2015, the Caisse d’Epargne has been sharing the fans’ enthusiasm as they follow the outstanding performance of the French team. To keep up with all the news about the French handball teams, follow us on Twitter @EspritHandball and on the Facebook page Esprit Handball.