France got scared, but it passed. On Wednesday January 26, in a half-empty Ergo Arena in Gdansk, the Blues qualified with difficulty for the semi-finals of the World Cup which takes place until January 29 in Poland and Sweden. They fought a tough battle against tougher Germans than the score (35-28) suggests. This is the fifth consecutive time that the Habs have reached the last four of a world championship.
Exactly as during the 2021 World Cup and Euro 2022, the semi-finals will oppose France and Sweden on one side, Denmark and Spain on the other. The Olympic champions will approach this meeting with a spirit of revenge because the Swedes have therefore beaten them twice at this stage of the competition during these two meetings.
Only 12e of the 2021 World Cup, 6e of the Olympic Games in Tokyo and 7e of Euro 2022, the Germans were not the favorites in this meeting, but they held out for the French for a long time. As expected, the main danger on the German side came from Juri Knorr, the new nugget of handball across the Rhine. At 22, the Mannheim centre-half is becoming a star in his country.
The Germans started the meeting with a bang and managed to make the French doubt. The extra day of recovery enjoyed by Guillaume Gille’s men undoubtedly weighed in the balance because their opponents stalled physically in the second half.
“During the last twenty minutes, France was clearly above, admitted the Icelandic Alfreo Gislason, the coach of the German team, at a press conference. Their defense was very good, with an excellent goalkeeper. The gap of seven goals at the end is severe, but France are a fantastic team and some of my players were tired. I think France can win the tournament. »
Two guards on fire
In pain, France therefore continues its journey in this competition. After the meeting, Guillaume Gille was more pleased with the result than the way: “We were very badly embarked, the Germans were insolent with success in the first quarter of an hour, we had to brace ourselves, then Rémi Desbonnet’s saves swung the balance of power. The end of the match opened the door to the semi-finals. Playing such a match in Stockholm, in a hostile environment, represents a fantastic challenge,” said the coach of the Blues.
Each period has seen a goalkeeper give it their all. At the start of the match, the French attackers came up against the German goalkeeper, Andreas Wolff, on fire, while Vincent Gérard took on the water. The French goal conceded a zero point on ten German shots attempted. Guillaume Gille wasted no time in making the necessary decision and brought in his second goalkeeper, Rémi Desbonnet, in the 14the minute.
This change would completely change the face of the meeting. The Montpellier player made 14 parries out of 30 shots attempted, at 47% efficiency. Elected man of the match, this 30-year-old player, who measures only 1.82 m, an average height which constitutes a handicap at international level, is not about to forget this evening.
“It’s the most important game of my career in terms of stakes, said the Montpellier, visibly moved, after the meeting. In the second half, we are dominant in the duels and therefore, inevitably, life becomes easier. (…) Gradually, we managed to impose our physical strength. We knew it was going to be a big fight. We are happy to have made them give in little by little. »
In terms of French satisfactions, Nedim Remili, Kentin Mahé, Nicolas Tournat and Ludovic Fabregas were solid. While Dika Mem appeared lacking in rhythm after missing four games for an abdominal contracture, the entry of Melvyn Richardson allowed the Blues to pick up the score just before the break.
Every day new crossword puzzles, Sudoku and found words.
Still in difficulty with his left foot, Nikola Karabatic, he could only play twenty minutes and is uncertain for the next match. A situation that is all the more worrying as Elohim Prandi suffers from an ankle and Thibaud Briet, absent this evening, hurt his right hand. At left-back, Guillaume Gille could call on Romain Lagarde in the next match, who has played very little since the start of the tournament.
In two days, the Blues will challenge the Swedes, who eliminated Egypt without trembling (26-22). Like the final, this match will take place at the Tele2 Arena in Stockholm, a 19,000-seat enclosure entirely won over to the Yellow and Blue cause. The Scandinavians, who have played all their home games, will have an advantage over the French, who are due to travel from Gdansk to Stockholm on Thursday.
A year ago, during Euro 2022, the Swedes had thwarted France. The performance of goalkeeper Andreas Palicka, author of 12 saves, weighed heavily in the balance. Sweden’s top scorer, Jim Gottfridsson, may miss this match as he was injured against Egypt. He would suffer from a broken finger.
Spain revived, Denmark favorite
Earlier in the evening, in Gdansk, Spain beat Norway (25-34) after two extensions, at the end of a match which will remain in the annals of handball. Defeated three days earlier by France, the Spaniards delivered a daunting game. Their qualification owes a lot to the exploits of FC Barcelona goalkeeper Gonzalo Perez de Vargas, decisive in the last minutes of the game.
In Stockholm, Denmark did not make any detail against Hungary (40-23). The Red and Whites, who had been hung by Croatia (32-32) in the main round, seem irresistible again. Led by their star, right-back Mathias Gidsel, author of 9 goals, they are in the running for a fabulous hat-trick, since they have won the last two editions of the world championships. With this success, the Scandinavians beat the invincibility record they co-held with France: they have not known defeat in a World Cup for 26 games.
More than ever, the team of captain Niklas Landin, considered the best goalkeeper on the planet, appears to be the favorite of the tournament, along with France. The World Cup final could be a repeat of that of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, when the Blues snatched the title against the Scandinavians (25-23).
Five years earlier, in Rio, the Danes had beaten the Habs (28-26) in the final of the Games. Like the France-Croatia at the time of the Barjots, the meetings between France and Denmark are on the way to becoming the most exciting series of international handball. Unless the Swedes, in front of their supporters, decide otherwise.