Handball: the blue house trembles on its bases

This is the key word, “Reconstruction”. The Blues of handball wish to go back up the walls of their past certainties, on which all the teams on the planet traditionally came to shatter. The work has just started, with two consecutive matches against Serbia in the context of qualifying for Euro 2022. And it promises to be long and delicate, after an away defeat (24-27) and a painful draw, Saturday January 9 (26-26) at home.

Four days before the World Cup in Egypt, and two months from an essential Olympic qualifying tournament – because the Blues are not yet in Tokyo – should we be worried? The question has been asked since January 2020 and the humiliating elimination from the first round of the Euro (a first since 1978). We then discovered a fragmented group, tensions between some players and coach Didier Dinart … Evils that have actually been brewing for months, since the end of the Onesta era.

A deep discomfort

Claude Onesta, the charismatic coach of the “Strong” then the “Experts”, craftsman of the ideal trajectory of French men’s handball for fifteen years, gradually inducted in 2015 his successor, the former defender double Olympic champion and triple world champion Didier Dinart. The world title in 2017, the bronze medals of Euro 2018 and the World Cup 2019, seem to ensure the legacy. But in fact, Didier Dinart has to deal with a framework imposed by his predecessor and former team-mates who, sometimes, hardly appreciate his choices of mixing between old and new generation.

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The gap, over time, widens, in particular with the “tauliers” Nikola Karabatic and Luc Abalo. Euro 2020 reveals the malaise. At the end of January, Didier Dinart learned from a phone call from his deputy and former teammate Guillaume Gille that he had to give way to him. Funny atmosphere. We are then a few weeks away from the qualifying tournament for the Tokyo Games, still scheduled for the summer of 2020. The French leaders dare an “electric shock”, but not the big upheaval: exit Dinart and hello Gille, just mounted a notch in the flowchart. It is better not to upset everything before crucial deadlines …

A game project still invisible

This was without counting the Covid-19, confinement, the end of competitions and the postponement of the Games and therefore of the Olympic qualifying tournament. Everything is vitrified. Guillaume Gille becomes a coach without troops. He focuses on coaching, integrates a new assistant, Érick Mathé, coach of Chambéry, Guillaume Gille’s heart club, and a new physical trainer, Olivier Maurelli, who also officiates with the French volleyball team. But you have to wait until the summer to see the players again, in an individual interview, and see “A lot of frustration, unresolved communication issues that had damaged the confidence of the players in a way I never suspected”, then confided Guillaume Gille.

On the field, the coach does not find his players for an internship until November 2020, without the entire workforce. “The French team must embody a new momentum”, he professes. His paw? He swears to laugh at “Give a mark” Gille & # 157; ” to the French team “, and only want “Support this group to build its path to the Games”. The composition of the team has only changed marginally for the moment. A need for insurance, the coach having only a few days of preparation before Serbia.

And so here is that a year after the fiasco of the Euro, the Blues are also stammering their handball. Without aggressiveness in defense, clumsy in attack, lost overall. Similar to the Rugby Blues of the 2016-2019 period. New captain but former grumpy, Michaël Guigou concedes “Things to work on, but which take time”. Except that the World Cup is already there, like the prospect of a new slap. The house is to be rebuilt, the foundations seem very fragile.


The games in sight

To get their ticket to Euro 2022 (in Hungary and Slovakia), the Blues must finish second in their group of four or in the best four thirds of the eight qualifying groups. Even after the misstep against Serbia, the challenge is within their reach against Belgium (April 28) and Greece (May 5).

Before these meetings, the Blues will have to deal with the Worlds in Egypt (from January 13 to 31) with entry, on Thursday January 14, the shock against Norway, vice-world champion and main opponent in a group counting also Austria and the United States. The goal is above all to regain confidence.

Because for the Blues, the main thing is the Olympic qualifying tournament between March 12 and 14 in Montpellier. To go to Tokyo, they must imperatively be in the first two of this competition, against Croatia, vice-champion of Europe, in Portugal who had pushed them towards the abyss at the Euro in January 2020 by beating them from the start. opening (28-25), and Tunisia, always catchy. If the Blues missed the boat, it would be a first since the Barjots pioneering adventure in 1992. And a hell of a thunderclap.


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