The French handball team begins its Olympic qualifying tournament against Croatia this Friday in Montpellier (9 p.m.), before facing Tunisia and then Portugal. Blues under pressure before this competition, since they are no longer as dominant as in the past. The fear of non-qualification is present.
It had been thirteen years since the French handball team had gone through a TQO to win a ticket for the Olympic Games. This will be the case this weekend in Montpellier, with three games on the program against Croatia, Tunisia and Portugal. At the time, Guillaume Gille, the current coach, was still on the pitch as a center-half, and Mickaël Guigou, the captain, was already one of the best left wingers in the world. “But the context was different. In 2008, we were above, on a dynamic of domination, he analyzes. Today, even if we had one last great competition, it will be war.”
During the last World Cup in Egypt, the Blues were reassured by reaching the semi-finals, far from the fiasco of the last Euro a year ago when France had failed in 14th place and Didier Dinart, the coach, had been dismissed of its functions in stride. “But obviously there are still doubts, blows the right winger Valentin Porte. I do not think that we will see a team of France which wins its three games of 20 goals. If we do not finish in the first two , we don’t qualify for the Olympics, the competition every athlete dreams of doing. Of course there is pressure. It would be weird if there wasn’t. “
Guigou: “A form of excitement, uncertainty and determination”
In Egypt, France saw what it still lacked to taste again the podium of a great competition even if it has chained seven victories in a row against big nations of the world hand (Norway, Portugal). “We have not shown enough consistency in the competition or in our matches, continues Guigou. It has happened at times but not as much as in the past. This team needs to work, to continue to be demanding. there were some very good things at the World Cup. “
This TQO also promises to be physically demanding for players who have been going at hellish pace since the start of the season and will have to deliver three matches of very high level in three days. “We favored recovery, says coach Guillaume Gille. In four days of work, we can not revolutionize everything. This TQO generates in our players a particular pressure, a special expectation. This Olympic project has a lot of meaning for us. There is a form of excitement, a little bit of uncertainty and a lot of determination. “
“Not going to the Games? It’s a reality” warns Guigou
On paper, the Blues are favorites between a moribund Croatia, 15th in the last World Cup and which lost its historic coach Lino Cervar, resigned, a Portugal largely dominated a few weeks ago (32-23) and a Tunisia which serves as little thumb, but the specter of non-participation in the Games is very present. “It’s a reality, continues Mickaël Guigou (39) and potentially playing his last competition with the Blues. This is what should motivate us even more. We must look this reality in the face. It is not something something that should frighten us, on the contrary… It is a given that should motivate us, push us to have an even stronger level mentally and physically. ” The French team, double Olympic champion in 2008 and 2012, finalist in 2016, in any case has a legacy to perpetuate by winning an 8th consecutive qualification for the French men’s hand at the Olympic Games.