Handball Euro: France ideally launches its tournament by beating Croatia (27-22)

Weakened by a chaotic preparation, the French handball players ideally launched their European championship, dominating Croatia (27-22) Thursday in Szeged (Hungary), a precious dream start in view of the main round for the Olympic champions from Tokyo. The French score two points which will count when approaching the matches of the main round, while Valentin Porte’s teammates will face Ukraine on Saturday (6 p.m.) then Serbia on Monday (8.30 p.m.), two opponents of a lower level higher than Croatia, for their first round.

A truncated preparation

Despite the positive cases of Covid-19, despite the injuries, despite the violent attack suffered by Elohim Prandi, Guillaume Gille’s men were able to overcome his countless backlashes to offer a very good copy on Thursday evening. “It’s a real satisfaction, because we know that the start of competition is always difficult and even more so with a Euro like this, with the Covid-19, with all the preparation which has been a little truncated” , commented the left-back of the France team, Nikola Karabatic, at the microphone of beIN Sports after the meeting.

From the first minutes, under the impetus of left-handed right-back Dika Mem and pivot Ludovic Fabregas, who was celebrating his 100th selection on Thursday evening, they quickly took off (7-2, 9th), but the Croats hooked, carried by a few saves from goalkeeper Ivan Pesic. The five-goal lead then fell to two at the break.

Tensions between players

Returning from the locker room, Mem and Fabregas accelerated again to allow the Blues to escape from four goals, forcing the Croats to use their forces by playing seven outfield players in attack to stay in contact with the French. A quarter of an hour from the end, when they had returned to two goals (21-19, 47th), the Croats were sanctioned with two temporary exclusions and a red card for Matej Mandic in the space of a few seconds. , raising the temperature a few degrees in the Hungarian room.

During this triple numerical superiority, the French took the opportunity to seal the fate of the meeting with a 2-0 which offered them a less stressful end to the meeting (23-19, 50th). The inspiration of Nikola Karabatic at the edge of the last five minutes (24-20) and the first goal of captain Valentin Porte (25-20), coming out of his quarantine after being affected by Covid-19, definitely ensured tricolor success.

Missed shots on the French side

“We started very well. Afterwards, we made the match a bit complicated. They came back because we missed shots, we lost balls. We gave them easy goals. But we defended very well throughout the match”, rejoiced Nikola Karabatic, the eldest of this team with his 37 springs, at the microphone of beIN Sports. The French defense, around Karl Konan, who is playing his first international competition in the blue jersey, and Fabregas perfectly muzzled the Croatian attack, deprived of Domagoj Duvnjak and Luka Cindric, positive for Covid-19.

Well helped by his two towers of defense, Vincent Gérard was masterful in goal for the France team, with 14 saves. The doorman of Paris SG had however missed the preparation of the Blues in Créteil, due to a family drama before Christmas.

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