The next sensation: Portugal demolish France

QUALIFIERS REVIEW 3: The record world champions France were without a chance in Guimaraes, though they played with their top team

Photo: Portuguese Handball Federation

The final match of Round 3 of EHF EURO 2020 Qualifiers saw the biggest surprise: One day after Montenegro beat current world and Olympic title holders Denmark, record world champions France were heavily defeated in Portugal.

Portugal are now on top of Group 6, two points ahead of France before the rematch on Sunday. Therefore, Portugal belong to a group of only four nations – alongside Hungary, Germany and Slovenia – to have the maximum of six points from the first three qualification matches.

Portugal vs France 33:27 (17:13)

It was back in 1980, in Torshavn, when a Portugal men’s team recorded their only victory ever against France. On Thursday night, more than 39 years later, history was finally repeated. And while in 1980, France were anything but a top side in international handball, now they are six-time world champions, three-time EHF EURO champions, twice Olympic champions, and bronze medallists at the last two major tournaments: the EHF EURO 2018 and the 2019 World Championship.

In this context, Portugal’s victory is truly sensational – but fully deserved. For France, it was the biggest defeat ever in any EHF EURO qualification match. Previously, the record was the 30:35 result against Norway on the way to the EHF EURO 2018.

France were shocked by an initial 0:3 deficit, then got back on track, but never managed to take the lead in the whole 60 minutes. The 12:12 in minute 23 was the last levelled result, before Portugal overran the French side.

Thanks to outstanding defence, the biggest gap was eight goals at 26:18. Even the Portuguese fans in the stands could not believe what they saw. And the hosts continued the same way until the end, even scoring in a numerical deficit situation against one of the best defences in the world of handball.

Since 2006, Portugal had not qualified for any EHF EURO final tournament. Now, they are almost through, having in mind that, besides the eight group winners and runners-up, the four best third-ranked teams will be in the pots for the draw event on 28 June in Vienna.

written by Björn Pazen / cg