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16.10.2018, 15:21
Remili, Mem, Fabregas, Lagarde: France’s four musketeers
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FEATURE: Ahead of France's first matches in the EHF EURO 2020 Qualifiers next week, we look at some of their brightest prospects. All of whom have made their way into the spotlight in recent years – and look set to remain there for years to come
 

Remili, Mem, Fabregas, Lagarde: France’s four musketeers

They may be barely 20, but four players are already very present tense in the France national team: Romain Lagarde, Nedim Remili, Ludovic Fabregas and Dika Mem

They have all been properly introduced to international level within the last two years, and already play a big part in their team’s destiny - even more so as France are set to play their first matches in EHF EURO 2020 Qualifiers against Lithuania and Romania next week.

Three of them were part of the U19 France team that won gold at the World Championship in 2015. Only Nedim Remili stayed under the radar at that point, but the three others had already a bright future. However, this 1997/98 generations is not just about three players.

Melvyn Richardson (Montpellier), Yanis Lenne (Barcelona), Adama Keïta (Paris), Dragan Pechmalbec (Nantes) – a lot of them are names that you might be familiar with if you follow the VELUX EHF Champions League every weekend. But trouble is, France have so many good players that you cannot fit them all in the national team.

Ludovic Fabregas was the earliest of all to blossom. At only 20, he was already playing the Olympic Games Final in Rio, and he was not only sitting on the bench, but playing a big role in the team. His defensive abilities were impressive and he seemed very mature for his young age.

It was Didier Dinart, then assistant coach, who pushed Claude Onesta to draft Fabregas for the Olympics. And the kid has paid him back. Fabregas has become the leader of the defence and will take over Cedric Sorhaindo’s duties in a couple of years, if he has not already now. Boss of the defence and a lot of room to progress on the other side of the court – it is no wonder Barcelona signed him last summer.

Speaking of Barcelona, the club seems to like young French talents. “It’s not about them being French, it’s about them being good,” coach Xavi Pascual often jokes. Timothey N’Guessan might belong to an older generation, but FCB now count three of the U19 French world champions in their rank: Fabregas, as well as Yanis Lenne and Dika Mem.

The latest has become key in the French system. Why? Because he plays stunningly well no matter what you ask him to do. Centre back? Check. Right back? Check. Right wing? Check. And he can also play multiple positions in defence, which is not a bad thing to add to your resume. With the national team, Mem is probably one of the most complete players, and is certainly one of Dinart’s favourites. The national coach loves his calm and his ability to adapt, branding him as one of the future greats in French handball.

That is not to say that Remili is not as great a prospect as Mem in their shared position, just a different one. One year older than Mem, Remili’s first steps in international handball world were quiet. At his first competition, the EHF EURO 2016 in Poland, he started with only two international matches under his belt – and he sometimes melted under the pressure.

But since he moved to Paris, Remili has become a different player altogether. He has improved defensively – what used to be his weakest point – and he’s still a lethal weapon in attack. At the moment, he is Paris’ top scorer in the Champions League, ahead of Mikkel Hansen and Uwe Gensheimer. At 23, the only way for Remili to go is up.

If Remili was the first among this group to discover the France national team, Romain Lagarde was the last. He made his first appearance in October 2017, before playing the EHF EURO in Croatia a couple of months later. There, he made an impression during the semi-final against Spain, scoring three goals in 20 minutes.

Since then Lagarde has been invited to come back, and he is sure to be a part of the EHF EURO 2020 qualifiers against Lithuania and Romania. In Lagarde, France have finally found a player able to help N’Guessan on the left back position, which has been the poorest, quantity-wise, lately. Playing the Champions League on a regular basis with his club, Nantes, Lagarde has started to gather the experience he sometimes lacked earlier.

These four players will undoubtedly be France’s biggest assets when the older generation, comprised of Michael Guigou, Cedric Sorhaindo and Luc Abalo, retire after the 2020 Olympics. But do not worry for France: there are not only these four talents – there are plenty pushing behind.


TEXT: Kevin Domas / cg
 
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