2023 Women's Handball World Cup: France faces Sweden and meets Norway in the final

Women's handball is a sport where France never loses in the semi-final of a World Cup

2023 Women's Handball World Cup: France faces Sweden and meets Norway in the final

Women's handball is a sport where France never loses in the semi-final of a World Cup. Friday, for the seventh time in their history, French handball players qualified, in Herning, Denmark, for the final of a world championship. The Tricolores made short work of the Swedes (37-28), who, like them, were undefeated in eight matches in this tournament.

On Sunday, they will try to win against the Norwegians, whom they beat with difficulty (24-23) in the group stage, a third world title after those of 2003 and 2017. The Scandinavians, for their part, will aim for a fifth coronation. Seven months before the Paris Games, this summit duel between the two best teams of the last decade is a dream poster.

“We are in a good dynamic,” Olivier Krumbholz, the coach of the French team, said after the meeting at the microphone of BeIN Sports. The girls understood the benefit of discipline, of having continuity in our game, which allows us to be even more dangerous. We lost few balls this evening. We had a lot of juice. This bodes well for the future. »

“It’s great!” rejoiced Laura Glauser, the Blue goalkeeper, named best player of the match. This qualification is a reward for all the sacrifices we have been able to make. We started very strong, with a lot of aggression. I want us to go for this gold medal as a team. »

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In this one-sided match, the Swedes never really existed. From the start, the Tricolores stifled them, and never released their grip. The Blues, who had not lost to Sweden since 2014, took a ten-goal lead (13-3) in twenty minutes, then began to manage the score.

At the end of the first period, the counter showed an eight-goal lead (19-11) for France. If mass had not yet been said, we were not very far from it. Returning from the locker room, while the Danish spectators gradually left the room, the French coach carried out a vast squad review, notably giving playing time to his latest recruits, the pivot Sarah Bouktit (21) and the leader Léna Grandveau (20).

The French defense, which had shown signs of relaxation in the previous match against the Czechs, was imperial, with Pauletta Foppa and Tamara Horacek in charge. Enough to facilitate the work of goalkeeper Laura Glauser, who achieved another high-flying performance, with 12 saves, at 36% efficiency, before giving up her place at the end of the match to Hatadou Sako. “Very very strong,” commented Olivier Krumbholz in the mixed zone.

The other great satisfaction of the evening came from the fluidity of the relationship between captain Estelle Nze Minko and pivot Pauletta Foppa, who took charge of the French game after the exit at the start of the second period of leader Grace Zaadi, victim of hyperextension of an elbow, apparently not serious.

Fullback Tamara Horacek had her best match in the French team jersey. First selected for her success in executing throws from seven meters, long confined to defensive tasks, the Nantes player delivered an almost perfect copy in attack, with a 9/10 in shooting. It takes on a new dimension in this tournament.

Norway at the buzzer

In this same room at the Jyske Bank Boxen, France and Norway will meet on Sunday, at 7 p.m., for another face-to-face meeting. Against its black cat, France will start as a slight favorite. If they beat the Norwegians in the main round (24-23) and in a friendly match in July (30-18), the Blues remain on three defeats in a row against these same opponents in the final phase of a major tournament. The Scandinavians defeated the French in the final of Euro 2020 (22-20) and the 2021 World Cup (29-22), then eliminated them in the semi-final of Euro 2022 (28-20).

The players of Thorir Hergeirsson, who has led the Norwegian selection since 2009, however, had to leave a few feathers running for almost an hour after the score against Denmark. A little earlier in the afternoon, in Herning, they needed, in fact, two unbreathable overtime periods to overcome their hosts (29-28), in a meeting which sometimes reached new heights in terms of 'intensity.

In this crazy match, one player was decisive: Norwegian Henny Reistad, who scored 15 of her team's 29 goals, with an 88% shooting success rate. The tall back (1.80 m, 24 years old) even scored her team's last six goals in the final overtime, a series that she concluded with an unstoppable ten-meter shot at the buzzer.

“The Norwegians got through because of her; she had an incredible match!, appreciated Olivier Krumbholz in the mixed zone. We will have to find solutions to cause them problems. We are ready to have a big match on Sunday. We're gonna give everything. »

For goalkeeper Laura Glauser, France holds the keys to the match. “If we manage to be stable, with aggression, we can manage to break the game of the Norwegians because they have an academic side, they are very “square”, she says. If we play our game, if we make a mess like the French know how to do, we will cause them problems. »

This summit between France and Norway constitutes the best possible showcase for women's handball at the international level, but Sunday's episode may not be the last in the series. Qualified for the Paris Games, the two teams could find themselves in eight months with Olympic gold in their sights.