06/01/2020

France want crown back after six years

MEN'S EHF EURO 2020 COUNTDOWN #3: France. The three-time champions last won the title in 2014 and they will include many newcomers when they go for title no. 4 this month

France are going for their fourth EHF EURO title. Photo: Mircea Rosca

It has been six years since France won the EHF EURO, in Denmark in 2014. Prior to that, ‘Les Bleus’ had lifted the trophy twice, in 2006 and 2010.

The bronze medal earned in Croatia two years ago created an appetite for more, so now is the time to deliver.

For France, many things will be at stake, as they want to return to Europe’s summit as well as secure a direct ticket to the 2020 Olympics.

But for a team featuring many newcomers, it won’t be an easy task.

Three questions before the Men’s EHF EURO 2020:

- How far have France come with building a new generation?

Since the retirement of stalwarts Thierry Omeyer and Daniel Narcisse following the 2017 World Championship, France head coach Didier Dinart has opened up the roster to younger players, who won under-21 and under-19 world titles in recent years. New faces like Ludovic Fabregas, Dika Mem and Melvyn Richardson have appeared in the team.

Only seven of the 16 players from the title-winning 2014 squad are still on the court nowadays.

- Will this be the last EHF EURO for some veteran players?

There have been no official announcements but players like Michaël Guigou, Luc Abalo and Cédric Sorhaindo could end their international careers at the end of the season. Nikola Karabatic has hinted at possible retirement after the Olympics.

In any way, it feels like the time is right to turn the page for France. The young players have gained more experience and showed lately they can carry the weight of expectations.

- How will coach Didier Dinart handle the surplus of right backs?

Dinart’s options for the right back position are nothing short of impressive: Nédim Rémili, Valentin Porte, Dika Mem, Melvyn Richardson, Adrien Dipanda. Instead of leaving some of his starts at home, Dinart has chosen to use Richardson and, more rarely, Mem, on the centre back position, giving him even more tactical possibilities.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by EdF Masculine Handball (@les_experts_officiel_ffhb) on Jan 6, 2020 at 6:39am PST

Under the spotlight: Ludovic Fabregas 

The Barça line player has vastly developed since the previous EHF EURO. Despite his position, he is one of the most prolific scorers for Barça in the VELUX EHF Champions League this season, having netted 33 times in the 10 games played so far. With Sorhaindo slowly declining, Fabregas will be the No. 1 choice for the position for years to come.

Self-esteem

Coach Dinier Dinart stressed that France “are a very young team” and that it might take some more time before the team can be as dominant again as it was a few years ago. That doesn’t mean that France expect anything else than winning the EHF EURO.

“We have beaten almost all those teams in the last couple of years, and we could have hoped for the final in the last two competitions,” Dinart said. “I’m confident that the situation will be similar this season.”

Fun fact

Even if France are taking a bunch of young players to the EHF EURO, they know how to win trophies. Dika Mem, Romain Lagarde, Yanis Lenne and Melvyn Richardson all went through the younger France national teams, which won the M20 EHF EURO and the U21 World Championship in 2016 and 2017. Ludovic Fabregas was playing so well, he went directly to the A team. No other nations in Europe have successfully integrated so many young players from this generation yet.

What the numbers say

He will turn 38: Michaël Guigou will once again celebrate his birthday during an EHF EURO. He is the oldest player in the French team, but says he doesn’t feel his age. He moved from Montpellier to Nîmes, who don’t play Champions League and allow him more rest days. The best way for him to be fit this month.

written by Kevin Domas / ew