Revenge aims for the French championship

France is tired of failing at the foot of the podium. The handball blues, who finished fourth in the World Cup in 2021 and the Euros a year later, and are Olympic champions in Tokyo, have big ambitions in the world championship to be held in Poland and Sweden from January 11 to 29. “We are aiming for the title, not the place of honor“Blues” head coach Guillaume Gille announces. We have stumbled twice in the semi-finals in two of our last three competitions, and our desire is to play the final again and win. »

Les Bleus’ campaign begins on January 11 with a high-pressure game against the host nation in Katowice in southern Poland. A tough test for captain Luka Karabatic’s teammates. At least 10,000 spectators are expected at Spodek, a sports hall in the shape of a flying saucer, to support the Red and Whites. “We know the enthusiasm of the Poles, the warmth of their room and the atmosphere that reigns there. This meeting will force us to be at the right pace from the beginning.”the coach continues.

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The Blues have fond memories of Poland. Their last game at Euro-2016 in Krakow ended in defeat (25-31). It must be admitted that the team coached by Patrick Rombel has hardly been able to shine since then (12).e last Euro and 13e last World Cup), but France would be well-advised to avoid a false entry against a team they will find themselves in Euro 2024 qualifying in March 2024.

Also in Katowice, the Blues will play the other two matches of the preliminary round on January 14 against Saudi Arabia and two days later against Slovenia. Opponents reachable: Saudi Arabia have never finished better than 19e Excluded from the competition for a place in the World Championship and the qualifying stage, but selected by invitation, Slovenia achieved its best result with a bronze medal at the World Cup in 2017, which was won at home by France.

France is the favorite of the tournament

The Blues harbor bitter memories of the controversial euro in Hungary and Slovakia a year ago. Between injuries (Luka Karabatic, Nedim Remili, Timothey N’Guessan, Elohim Prandi, etc.) and continuous upheavals due to Covid-19, which especially contaminated Guillaume Gille during the competition, the French team floated for a long time. will fall to Sweden in the semi-finals, and Denmark for the bronze medal.

This time the planets seem aligned. With key players still missing (Timothey N’Guessan, Aymeric Minne, Karl Conan, Hugo Descat and Wesley Pardin), the Blues can count on Elohim Prandi – the victim of a knife attack on New Year’s Eve a year ago – and, above all, playmaker Nedim Remili was named the best center half of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

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Therefore, the Blues need an earthquake to avoid finishing in the top three of their group, which is synonymous with joining the main tour. They would then make the short trip from Katowice to Krakow, where they would face three teams from Group A. Logically, they should find there an old acquaintance, a strong opponent, Spain at the highest level (winner of Euro 2020). 2021 World Cup third and Euro 2022 finalist).

The next matches against the other two in Group A (which includes Montenegro, Chile or Iran) will be less complicated. On one condition: “Blues” do not lose points on the road, require the arithmetic of international handball competitions, finish in one of the first two places in their group in the main round and advance to the quarterfinals. The French will go to Sweden only if they qualify for the quarterfinals – two quarterfinals, one semifinal, the final (January 29) and 5 qualifying matches are held in Stockholm.e at 8e square.

For many observers, France is the favorite of the tournament. Five or six teams could win, including Denmark, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Croatia and Egypt… but the French will be hard to beat.Former Russian central midfielder Talant Dujshebaev, who has worn the colors of Spain and now leads Poland’s Kielce with four international caps, thinks so. France has an exceptional generation of players who have played for Europe’s biggest clubs. They grew up together and know each other by heart. Other teams have no equivalent! »

Blues calendar

Initial stage:

Poland-France, January 11 at 21:00, Katowice (Poland).

France-Saudi Arabia, January 14 at 18:00, Katowice (Poland).

Slovenia-France, January 16 at 18:00, Katowice (Poland).

Main tower:

From January 18 to 23 Krakow and Katowice (Poland), Gothenburg and Malmö (Sweden).

Quarter finals:

January 25 in Gdansk (Poland) and Stockholm (Sweden).

Semi-Finals:

January 27 in Gdansk (Poland) and Stockholm (Sweden).

Final:

January 29, in Stockholm (Sweden).

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