The French handball players are back in competition three months after their lost final at the World Cup: Les Bleues continue qualifying for Euro-2022, with a double confrontation against Croatia on Thursday in Koprivnica (6:00 p.m.), then in Toulouse on Sunday (5:30 p.m. ).
Les Bleues, who started their campaign in October with successes against the Czech Republic (38-22) and Ukraine (28-25), are top of their group and can ensure their qualification in the event of a double success against the medalists bronze at Euro-2020.
“We were all very happy to meet again. We have a good week of work together, with the possibility of qualifying for the Euros, ”said center half Estelle Nze Minko, 30, one of the most experienced players in a squad very similar to the one who won. silver at the Mondial-2021 in Granollers, seventh podium in the last eight international tournaments.
Certainly, the coach Olivier Krumbholz wants to test new things: “It’s always the time to experiment, to call on young players”. But “we will always take the best, whatever happens.
Sixteen of the twenty finalists from Granollers (Spain) have been recalled. Allison Pineau, Catherine Gabriel and Laura Flippes and Paulette Foppa (injured) are missing. While they were to return, Orlane Ahanda and Kalidiatou Niakaté were injured and were replaced by pivots Sarah Bouktit and Oriane Ondono.
These changes are part of a “new cycle” with, in sight, the Olympic Games at home in 2024. Everyone is motivated in relation to the 2024 Games. It’s going to be a bit of fierce competition that we’re going to arbitrate with joy and pleasure, ”rejoiced Krumbholz.
Goalkeeper Cléopâtre Darleux also projects herself and believes that the “preparation is global”. “We are thinking long term with the Games, having specific lines of work and points for improvement,” she continued.
The objective of the gathering nevertheless remains the success of this double confrontation against Croatia, as noted by center half Grace Zaadi: “We know that big deadlines are coming and we have a lot of ambition. But we don’t think about it morning, noon and night. »
“We first want to win these two matches with style, ensure qualification and help these young players to integrate in the best possible way, relying on their qualities”, continues Zaadi.
Olivier Krumbholz, assures him, these two meetings should not be taken lightly. “These are two important matches for us. We would like to stand out definitively in this pool in order to approach April (the last qualifying period, editor’s note) calmly. »
“We know it won’t be easy. The Croats are playing well and will surely be a little revengeful for the semi-final of the 2020 European Championship, where they were mistreated (30-19 victory, editor’s note) “, he concludes.