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04.01.2014, 11:17
From dark horse to handball glory
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EHF EURO COUNTDOWN: France want to make use of their underdogs' role at the EHF EURO 2014 to claim the European title for the third time
 

From dark horse to handball glory

After failing to reach the semi-finals at the EHF EURO 2012, France are looking to get back the European handball crown, that has been owned by Denmark since.

But it's not going to be an easy mission, as head coach Claude Onesta states: "Denmark at home are clearly favourites of this EURO. But I think that we are a little bit under the radar this time, a strong contender but not the favourites, and that might be better for us."

The main reason for France not being named as the favourite for the competition is the number of serious injuries the team has suffered from in the past couple of weeks.

The last one in the list is Pierre Soudry who, after he received a hit on the thigh during a French league game at the beginning of December, has just called 'out' for the EHF EURO.

"He has just started running again," says the team's doctor. "So for us, there is no way he'll be able to play at the EURO."

With Xavier Barachet being injured as well, Kevynn Nyokas remains the only left-handed right back in the squad - so what can France expect from the competition?

"We have the same base of players we've had for years, so I think, just because there is one weaker position this time, doesn't mean we can't fight for the win," says a confident Daniel Narcisse

Alongside Soudry and Barachet, Bertrand Gille won't be in Denmark due to a foot injury.

But for two of the squad's key players, goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer and team captain Jerome Fernandez, it is a run against time.

The former, who is just returning from an elbow injury, is still uncertain, while the second, who hurt his hand in october, has been declared fit to play.

But Onesta says: "We'll try to rest (Fernandez) him as much as possible during the first phase, and then bring Jérôme back little by little."

The opportunity for new faces to shine

However, on more positive note all these injured player leave space for new faces to come and show their abilities.

If goalkeepers Vincent Gérard and Cyril Dumoulin have been around the French selection for quite some time now, one might discover new players next month.

Valentin Porte, the right winger from Toulouse, should make an appearance and his ability to play on the back position makes him a very important player already.

Furthermore Benjamin Agfour from Dunkerque might be using his VELUX EHF Champions League experience that he has gained this season to accumulate some playing time.

And then there is Luka Karabatic, the brother of Nikola. He has shown some real defensive abilities during the Golden League in Norway two months ago, and he should be replacing Didier Dinart, the head of defence who retired at the beginning of 2013.

"All in all, this EURO might be a good opportunity for these guys to learn what the high level is," says Onesta, while Narcisse says tongue-in-cheek: "We won't be around forever, so it's time for the young players to gradually get introduced to the team."

A last minute surprise?

But while all these 'youngs wolves' are already known in the international circuit, Claude Onesta might chose to put a surprise player in the plane to Denmark.

Micke Brasseuleur, just 20 years old, could get his chance to make his debut with the selection, but he remains calm.

"The coach still has to announce his list, but it would be too good to be true."

Having played with the junior national team this summer, he still could be in the squad, just like Timothey Nguessan was at last year's World Championship.

From Tremblay, this right back has got everything it takes to become a true great player in a couple of years time. And since Claude Onesta is already "preparing (his team for) the future" he might just make him to the EHF EURO. . .


TEXT: Kevin Domas / ts
 
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