The Blues are in the last four of the Handball World Cup. Yes, once more, once more. The eleventh since the beginning of the century, out of twelve editions of the competition, already won six times by the French. Their only absence dates back to ten years, in 2013 in Spain, where they lost in the quarter against the Croats (23-30). Healthy habit therefore, and performance not to be minimised. Because it was not written in advance, this scenario for the moment ideal punctuated by seven victories in as many matches.
The Blues have indeed started the World Cup with a formation decimated by injuries, and not the least. From left-back Timothey N’Guessan (broken hand) to winger Hugo Descat (knee surgery) to goalkeeper Wesley Pardin (ankle), seven players, the equivalent of an entire team, remained on the floor. And the ordeal began with two other leaders forced to wait on the bench: captain Luka Karabatic, struggling with back pain, and right-back Valentin Porte still embarrassed on the side of his thigh muscles.
The Thibaud Briet revelation
The Blues were certainly not the only ones to experience such a traffic jam in the infirmary, the infernal cadences imposed on the players remaining the fundamental problem that everyone sees without ever solving it. But it was still a lot to go on a campaign with high hearts, even if the ambition did not completely desert the French camp. In fact, they have adapted, these Blues, and even to the other bad surprises punctuating their career, from the muscle contracture in the abdominal muscles which deprived the star in the making Dika Mem of five games, to the contusion on the left foot of Nikola Karabatic which embarrasses still the valiant 38-year-old veteran.
It is so made, this French handball team, that if a head is missing, another comes out of the shadows opportunely. Thus Thibaud Briet, 23 years old, and a winning mind. The young Normand had taken advantage of the cascade of packages caused by the Covid-19 during Euro 2022 to discover the France group. He had obviously taken good bearings. In the first phase of the World Cup, the good giant – 2.05m, the tallest player in the history of the Blues – put himself forward, a revelation of the tournament in attack (third best blue scorer) as well as in defense where its versatility is invaluable. “Being a Swiss army knife is perfect for me”, laughs the guy. Out of its box like a handsome devil. “It’s one of the fastest arrivals in recent years”welcomes the coach of the Blues, Guillaume Gille.
In handball as in other collective disciplines, there are more and more young people in a hurry that the masters of playing no longer hesitate to throw into the deep end. “With the international successes of the Blues, a requirement for work has gradually imposed itself in the training centers and the hope centersexplains Daniel Costantini, coach of the national team from 1985 to 2001. Confidence too, and excellent players emerge from the twenties. Before, you had to wait much longer to bring them to the world level. »
The stratospheric performance of Rémi Desbonnet
Thibaud Briet is only the latest in a long series. But he too injured his hand, and he was not part of the party in the quarter-final against Germany on Wednesday January 25. The Blues struggled for almost forty minutes, before taking off to win (35-28). And in the case shone with a thousand lights the goalkeeper of the Blues. The usual owner, Vincent Gérard? What not. After eighteen minutes of figuration (no stoppage), the latter was replaced by the second doorman, Rémi Desbonnet. At 30, in blue for less than a year and completely unknown to the general public, the Montpellier player treated himself to a dream evening, discouraging the German gunners with a stratospheric performance (14 saves on 30 shots). A new head for the Blue Hydra.
Another must still grow: Elohim Prandi, who is struggling to show himself on this World Cup. At 24, back in blue after being stabbed in the streets of Paris before the Euro last year, the left-back of PSG does not have the performance he shows with his club. He still has to really free himself, and quickly if possible. Because it is the Swedes at home who come forward on Friday January 27. The same ones who banned the Blues from the 2021 World Cup final (26-32 defeat) and that of Euro 2022 (33-34). Forward for a new feat?
The Bruno Martini shock
At the announcement of the news, the Blues remained focused on their quarter-final the same evening, but it is an understatement to say that it stunned them: the former goalkeeper, double world champion Bruno Martini, president of the National Handball League (NHL), received a one-year suspended prison sentence and a €2,500 fine for “bribery of minors” and “recording of child pornography images”.
Under investigation since 2020 after the complaint of a 13-year-old, he had been placed in police custody two days earlier. The sanction was validated by the Paris court after appearance on prior admission of guilt. Even before the outcome, the leaders of the NHL, in connection with the French Handball Federation, had called Bruno Martini, 52, to resign. A general meeting to replace him is scheduled for March 7. The federation has also decided to open disciplinary proceedings against him.