Les Experts win Olympic gold against Sweden, bronze for Croatia
Olympic gold for France
France remain the Olympic champions in the men’s competition. After a thrilling and nail-biting final against Sweden, the ‘Marseillaise’ national anthem was played for them just as in 2008 in Beijing after they had received their gold medals in an ‘Usain-Bolt’ winning pose.
Sweden won their fourth Olympic silver medal after the close 22-21 defeat in the final on Sunday.
Key player for France was again Thierry Omeyer, who was the tournament's best goalkeeper with overall 94 saves in eight matches. Best French scorer in the final was Michael Guigou with five goals.
Ahead of the final Croatia won their first bronze medal at Olympic Games by beating Hungary in the 3/4th placel match, 33-26.
History repeats itself
Just as in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, France won the gold medal in the men's competition and but at London 2012 the Frenchmen had to wait until the final seconds of a nail-biting final, before they won their second Olympic gold.
Their opponents, Sweden, fought bravely until the final buzzer, but earned their fourth Olympic silver medal after being defeated on Sunday (12 August) in the Basketball Arena in a real thriller 22-21 (10-8).
Just 40 seconds before the final buzzer, Luc Abalo decided the match, scoring to put his side up 22-20. Swede, Niclas Ekberg scored six times and with it, became top scorer of the competition with 50 goals, one goal ahead of Ivan Cupic.
10 of the 14 French players celebrated their second Olympic gold medal in a row, and Swedish coaches Staffan Olsson and Ola Lindgren now have a fourth silver medal, this time as coaches.
Champions defend titles
For the first time since 1992 both men's and women's handball champions have defended their gold medals, with Norway crowned champions on Saturday (11 August) in their final against Montenegro.
Even the attendance of Swedish King Carl Gustav could not push the Swedish team to their first-ever gold medal. The Scandinavians were on an equal level for a lot of the match; in the first half (which finished 10-8 in favour of France) and in the second half where France were pegged back from going too far ahead thanks to the aggressive Swedish defence and extraordinary goalkeeper Johan Sjostrand.
Sweden were perfectly tactically prepared against their final opponents, supported by thousands of their supporters in the stands.
Celebrated French goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer kept the Swedes at bay, saving 11 shots in total - just like he did in the 2008 final against Iceland, and with them took his competition total to 94 shots in eight matches. This confirmed his title as the best goalkeeper at London 2012, further confirmed by his well-deserved place in the London 2012 Olympic all-star team, just as in 2008.
It was the fifth major title for the French team since 2008. They have been Olympic champions twice (2008, 2012), world champions twice (2009, 2011) and European champions (2010) once, but the London 2012 final was the last big match for the current French squad as a large number of players will retire from the national team with a gold medal around their necks.
Statements after the match:
Coach Claude Onesta (FRA): "Beijing 2008 was about us winning the Olympic gold after years of trying and people expecting us to add that gold medal to our collection. It was the only one we had not won. So it was relief to get it four years ago. This triumph here in London is totally different. It was a situation where we had an old team of players who wanted to show everyone who doubted them that they were still able to be Olympic champions. That they still had the ability and skills to win an Olympic gold. And, I am delighted to say, they certainly did just that. They showed they were not too old or finished.
Coach Ola Lindgren (SWE) : “I am disappointed. We fought all 60 minutes with a strong defence and active attack. It’s hard to lose the final with just one goal difference. Yet we are proud about our team. Everybody expected France to play in the final but hardly anybody thought of us as potential finalists.”
Player Tobias Karlsson (SWE): ”We fought well as we have been doing in all games of the Olympic competition. We were close to success but didn’t have enough power to accomplish our winning task at the end.”
TEXT: Björn Pazen
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