A victory without forcing oneself, more than forty points scored and a game time widely distributed between the players. For its second match of the world championship in Poland, the French men’s handball team did not have to draw on its reserves to get the best of Saudi Arabia on Saturday January 14. Winners (41-23) in Katowice, the partners of Nikola Karabatic validated their ticket for the main round of the World Cup, three days after their inaugural victory against the Polish host.
Opposed to a team made up exclusively of amateur players and whose coach, Jan Pytlick, insisted on Hand News that she was there “above all to learn, to gain experience” while acknowledging that “the level is much higher than what [ses] players are used to, the Blues knew that the outcome of the game was not in doubt. But the tricolor technician, Guillaume Gille, had set his troops a list of tasks to accomplish: “Distribute playing time, give the youngest their first minutes, get everyone into the competition”.
Faced with a most modest opponent, the Blues came close to casualness during the first twenty minutes, alternating lack of defensive involvement, imprecise passes and shots without too much conviction. And the Saudis did not fail to sanction these inaccuracies, returning to two lengths behind the French (12-10, 17e).
“It’s not because I rate this team as the weakest in the group that it will be an easy match to play, quite the contrary”, warned Guillaume Gilles on the eve of the match. Forced to tighten the bolts, the French technician saw his team return with more desire, bending the part before the rest on the wings of a Yannis Lenne in verve (eight goals in total).
If they nevertheless conceded more than twenty goals against Saudi Arabia, a few days after their sluggish entry into the running against the Poles (26-24), the Blues played in the second half. And no longer having any doubts about the final result, coach Guillaume Gille took the liberty of ” give to eat “as he explained the day before, to his players who lacked playing time during the opening match or during preparation.
Veteran winger Valentin Porte returned to the pitch after missing the opener. And even the third goalkeeper, Charles Bolzinger (a save), offered himself his first international cap at the very end of the match. For his part, captain Luka Karabatic has again been preserved, like right-back Dika Mem, for future deadlines.
Qualified for the main round, failing to have convinced for two meetings, the Blues will complete their first round on Monday against Slovenia. They will want to enter the main phase with plenty of points, with a view to qualifying for the quarter-finals.