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08.11.2013, 11:41
France ready to go all the way
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ANALYSIS: After winning the EHF EURO in 2006 and 2010, France may yet again be in the position to top the podium when the EHF EURO 2014 throws off in Denmark in January
 

France ready to go all the way

France know what it feels like topping the podium at an EHF EURO Event. After having won the competition in 2006 and 2010, the confidence among the 2012 Olympic champions grows that the team might be ready for yet another title.

At the beginning of November they finished second in the Golden League, a four-nation tournament they played with Denmark, Croatia and Norway.

"Over the three days we've seen them gradually getting better and that's a good sign for the EURO," says French handball expert François-Xavier Houlet who himself has 64 internationals (181 goals) for France under his belt.

"The goal is to go all the way and to win the EHF EURO. I think our team is still part of the best teams with many great players," seconds Montpellier's William Accambray.

"We have to believe in ourselves and to believe that we can continue winning titles – which needs commitment and work from each player.

"Our strongest point is the quality of the team and the players. Despite the generation change, the new generation also has its quality.

"There are still a lot of very good players in France and we should just be careful because having talent is not enough to win a competition at this level."

Two goalkeepers to succeed Omeyer

One of the open questions is the one about the No.1 goalkeeper, now that Thierry Omeyer is likely to miss the final tournament after having sustained an elbow injury in October.

There are two contenders, Vincent Gerard from Dunkerque, and Cyril Dumoulin from Chambery.

"I think they are two different players," explains Houlet.

"Cyril has been in the squad for four years now, and knows everything well. Vincent is new to the national team, but he's hungry and he's playing in the Champions League this season, where he has played some very good games."

Head coach Claude Onesta has already stated that he's not necessarily looking for a No.1. "I want them to get along well, to be complimentary."

The French team is in a rebuilding process and will be made ​​up by young players and experienced elements," he continues. "We will use the EHF EURO 2014 to see where this team is and what are its qualities.

"We play in a very balanced group with Serbia, Poland and Russia. There is no weak team. We all know that they are great nations of European handball. We must be operational from the beginning of  the preliminary round."

Talents vie for right back position

Another thing Onesta has to work on is whom to play with in defence. With Didier Dinart retiring at the beginning of 2013, there are still adjustments to be made.

"I think we've seen that a defence that includes Nikola Karabatic and Cedric Sorhaindo in the middle is definitely a strong one.

"But during the Golden League, Luka Karabatic proved to be very interesting in defence. There is still work to be done, but the fact that Cedric and Nikola now play together in Barcelona, and that Luka has played with Nikola before, I think this will be the defence for the Euro," says Houlet.

The general assumption is that 10 players are more or less sure to go to Denmark, while it is expected that Onesta may wait until the very last minute to decide who will also make it to the official squad.

There have been some surprises in the recent past, such as Timothey Nguessan going to the World Championships in 2013, and there are certainly too many talents on the right back position to bring them all in.

"Mathieu Grebille played very well at the Golden League," says Houlet. "And the fact that Nguessan has been injured until recently might be to his (Grebille's) advantage.

"Even if he's 36, Jerome Fernandez proved that he is essential, especially since he can play on the right back position as well. Accambray should be there as well, so the last choice will be between Grebille and Nguessan I think."


TEXT: Kevin Domas / Björn Pazen / ts
 
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