No need to hide their face, France stutters its handball. And the success against Iceland (28-26), Friday January 22, in the main round of the Egyptian World Cup, does not make it possible to see it any clearer: since its inaugural coup against Norway, France has been playing badly. But France wins. Five wins in as many matches, the way to the quarter-finals is clear.
Against the men of Gudmundur Gudmundsson on Friday, the Blues have once again played with their nerves, and have their salvation only to the stops of Yann Genty, decisive in the last minutes of a match once again stifling. “We are flawless with ups and downs. It’s not always nice to see, but the main thing is to win, no matter what. ” The summary of the Parisian goalkeeper, at the microphone of BeIn sports, is relentless.
Attractive against a large nation like Norway, France is casual against selections deemed weaker. The victory at the end of the suspense on Monday against the Swiss could be attributed to a culpable relaxation – the qualification of the Blues for the main round having already been acquired. But the “performance” offered two days later against over-motivated Algerians resurfaced the demons of the double underperformance against the Serbs in early January in qualifying for Euro 2022.
Valentin Porte, after the match against the Fennecs, admitted: “We are decreasing in intensity and level as we go [des matches]. We risk being punished at some point. ” Angry after the journalist from BeIn, Luc Abalo had to be surely also by the game produced: “We are not the great French team of ten years ago”, then ended up dropping the right winger.
“I knew that the team was not going to play a perfect handball in Egypt, but it wins” (Guillaume Gille, former international)
So, can the Blues only aim for the world title by playing on alternating current? Hope is allowed, after all Portugal was European champion in 2016 by offering poor football. Daniel Costantini prefers to remain cautious in his forecasts. The former coach (1985-2001), who gave his letters of nobility and his first titles to the Blues, puts into perspective: “It has already happened to the France team. I remember competitions where it started badly, where the press doubted and that’s when the players woke up. “
His successor Claude Onesta, recalls Costantini, took to the habit, when articles scratched the team, to stick them in the locker room to motivate the players. Thursday, the traditional meeting with the media on non-match days came to an end: it was canceled, “To tighten” the group before Iceland, soberly indicated the staff to Agence France-Presse.
Without looking for excuses, Jérôme Fernandez explains that “This team needs time and common experience”. “I knew she was not going to play a perfect handball in Egypt, but she wins”, observes the former international multi-medalist, according to whom sonly the victories allow the team to“Store confidence” which is currently lacking. “For the moment, that’s enough, we are not meeting the best teams in the world”, shade Daniel Costantini.
The two men agree that all the players are not 100%, that the team is still looking for an indisputable left-back after the injury of Elohim Prandi, injured before the World Cup – Timothey N’Guessan and Romain Lagarde have not been entirely satisfactory so far – that the lack of defensive solidity can instill doubt in a collective, which too often has to rely on individual exploits to get by.
“Kentin Mahé has become indispensable”
France is not the only one to know a difficult course. All the major handball nations (Norway, Croatia, Germany, Sweden, Spain), except Denmark, were jostled in the first matches of an unprecedented competition both by the format (32 teams against 24 in previous editions) and by the context of Covid-19 (packages from the Czech Republic, the United States and Cape Verde), disputed behind closed doors and under a health bubble.
But these Blues have resources, it’s even “Abundance of goods”, said Daniel Costantini before the World Cup, which would not facilitate the choices of Guillaume Gille. “We have nothing to envy the Danes, supports the former coach of the Barjots. Kentin Mahé has become essential for the center-half position, in important matches we will see him from start to finish; we have three very high level pivots; and Vincent Gérard is not yet at the maximum of his possibilities. “
“The France team can be sacred if, from the quarters, it is able to put an intensity and an activity at all times as against Norway”, advance, for his part Jérôme Fernandez. “But it can also sink against Portugal”, immediately adds the best scorer in the history of the Blues. Because the Lusitanians, who at Euro 2020 had caused many nightmares for the Blues, will play their survival in the competition on Sunday. A defeat of more than seven goals and the dreams of Egyptian coronation will fly for the men of Guillaume Gille.