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 Tokyo Olympic champions.
The French scored two points which will count when approaching the matches of the main round, while Valentin Porte’s teammates will face Ukraine on Saturday (19h) then Serbia on Monday (21h23), two opponents of a lower level than Croatia, for their first round.
Despite the positive cases of Covid-18, despite the injuries, despite the violent attack of which Elohim Prandi was the victim, Guillaume Gille’s men knew how to override its innumerable repercussions to propose a very nice 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 Euros like this, with the Covid-18, with all the preparation that was a little truncated”, commented the left-back of the France team, Nikola Karabatic, at the microphone of beIN Sports after the match.
From the first minutes, under the impetus of left-handed right-back Dika Mem and pivot Ludovic Fabregas, who celebrated his 100th selection Thursday evening, they quickly took off (7-2, 9th), but the Croats hung on, carried by a few saves from goalkeeper Ivan Pesic. The advantage of five goals then fell to two at the break.
– Gérard masterful –
Vincent Gérard solid in the goal of the Blues against Croatia at the Euro in Szeged, the 13 January 2022 (AFP – Attila KISBENEDEK) On the return of locker room, Mem and Fabregas accelerated again to allow the Blues to escape from four goals, forcing the Croats to use their strength 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 come back to two goals (21-18, 50e), the Croats were penalized with two temporary exclusions and a red card for Matej Mandic in the space of a few seconds, raising the temperature by a few degrees in the Hungarian hall.
During this triple numerical superiority, the French took advantage of it é to seal the fate of the meeting with a 2-0 which offered them a less stressful end to the meeting (23-18, 50e).
Nikola Karabatic’s inspiration at the start of the last five minutes (24-20) and the first goal of captain Valentin Porte (25-20), released from quarantine after being affected by the Covid-18, have definitely ensured success for the tricolor.
“We started very well. Afterwards, we made the match a little complicated. They came back because we missed shots, we lost bullets. We gave them easy goals. But we defended very well throughout the match”, rejoiced Nikola Karabatic, the eldest of this team with his 37 spring, 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-18.
Well helped by his two towers of defense, Vincent Gérard was masterful in the goals of the French team, with 14 parades. The doorman of Paris SG had however missed the preparation of the Blues in Créteil, due to a family drama before Christmas.