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08.01.2018, 12:36
France want European crown back
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EHF EURO COUNTDOWN #14: France make no secret of their ambitions going into the EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia as they want to become Europe’s no.1 again
 

France want European crown back

The EHF EURO 2016 in Poland was no success for France. Too many injured players, a lack of experience and, with the Olympics in Rio already in sight, they couldn’t retain their title.

But after winning the World Championship at home last January, Nikola Karabatic and his teammates have made it clear: they want the European crown back.

Roster

Not much has changed compared to the 17 player-squad that took part in the World Championship a year ago. Daniel Narcisse as well as Thierry Omeyer left after the previous EHF EURO, and Vincent Gérard has proven to be a worthy replacement for Omeyer.

With William Accambray and Olivier Nyokas both injured, Timothey N'Guessan is the only dedicated left back in the squad.

A possible alternative on this position is wing Raphaël Caucheteux, the all-time best scorer of the French league.

The line player position could pose a problem as Ludovic Fabregas is missing due to a blood clot in his arm, while Luka Karabatic was injured up until December for more than a month with a sprained ankle. Didier Dinart has called up Nicolas Tournat from Nantes to reinforce the position.

Attack

Nikola Karabatic remains the boss of the French attack, playing the centre back position and deciding on the rhythm of the game. His relationship with his brother, Luka, is one of the keys of the offensive game. Kentin Mahé can also bring some variation in the middle, while Michaël Guigou and Luc Abalo will bring their usual madness on the wings.

The real difficulty will be to put the left back in the best position to shoot and gather trust. N'Guessan has not been reliable over 60 minutes so far.

The problem is all the opposite on the right side as Dika Mem, Nédim Rémili and Adrien Dipanda all share duties, displaying different styles and giving possibilities to attack the opponent differently.

Defence

A former ‘Best Defender of the World’, Didier Dinart takes real pride in setting up a good defence. Dipanda, Cédric Sorhaindo and Luka Karabatic are key players in this area.

The question will be how the team will adapt to Fabregas' absence. Still only 21 years old, the Montpellier player was, in Dinart’s words, “already the defence boss.”

France should have got enough options to make up for this loss. And otherwise, they can always count on Vincent Gérard, the best goalkeeper of the last world championships.

Coach

The IHF Coach of the Year 2016, world champion at home in 2017: the last months have been successful ones for Didier Dinart, considering that he only took the reins of the national team in October 2016. His appetite is limitless, and he would like to follow one title with another.

Outlook

France will be among the favourites in Croatia, but it seems like ‘Les Bleus’ are not as dominant in European handball as they used to be. The EHF EURO 2016 and the recent defeats against Denmark and Norway in the Golden League showed their vulnerability.

France still have players to turn a game around, like Nikola Karabatic or Vincent Gérard, but it will be interesting to see if recently injured players like Luc Abalo or Luka Karabatic can find their rhythm quickly enough to help the team win the European crown again.

The opening game against Norway will give a first indication of France’s chances to access the semi-finals.

The 21 players selected by France for the most recent Golden League (4 to 7 January):

Goalkeepers: Cyril Dumoulin (HBC Nantes), Vincent Gérard (Montpellier HB), Julien Meyer (Chambéry Savoie HB)

Left wings: Raphaël Caucheteux (St.-Raphaël Var HB), Michaël Guigou (Montpellier HB), Kentin Mahé (SG Flensburg-Handewitt), Dylan Nahi (Paris SG HB)

Left backs: Timothey N’Guessan (FC Barcelona Lassa)

Centre backs: Nicolas Claire (HBC Nantes), Nikola Karabatic (Paris SG HB), Romain Lagarde (HBC Nantes)

Line players: Luka Karabatic (Paris SG HB), Cédric Sorhaindo (FC Barcelona Lassa), Nicolas Tournat (HBC Nantes), Benjamin AFGOUR (Montpellier HB)

Right backs: Adrien Dipanda (St.-Raphaël Var HB), Dika Mem (FC Barcelona Lassa), Nedim Remili (Paris SG HB)

Right wings: Luc Abalo (Paris SG HB), Yanis Lenne (FC Barcelona Lassa), Valentin Porte (Montpellier HB)


TEXT: Kevin Domas / ew / ts
 
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