“Allez Les Bleus!” France take sixth World Championship title in styleArticle
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REVIEW: The hosts of the Men’s World Championship 2017 beat Norway 33:26 in the final to record a ninth win in their ninth match, successfully defend their title and top the podium for a record sixth time

“Allez Les Bleus!” France take sixth World Championship title in style

Thierry Omeyer has become the first handball player to win World Championships for the fifth time, his teammates Michael Guigou, Nikola Karabatic, Daniel Narcisse and Cedric Sorhaindo took their respective fourth gold medal and France as a handball nation won its sixth Men’s World Championship.

In one short sentence: France’s 33:26 (18:17) win against final debutants Norway on Sunday in Paris was a historic day in handball.

Following nine wins in nine matches at their home World Championship, hosts France definitely deserved the title, and more than 15,000 fans in the AccorHotels Arena in Paris applauded for minutes when tournament MVP Nikola Karabatic and the entire French team entered the podium.

Just before Norway had received their silver medals, looking very disappointed. “In some days we will realise what we have earned here,” said head coach Christian Berge.

“Of course you want to win gold when you make it to the final, but definitely France were stronger and deserve to be on top of the podium.”

His team had been the surprise package of the tournament. They came second in Group A, beat FYR Macedonia and Hungary in the first two knockout stages and eventually stunned Croatia in the semi-final – that all came after their entry to the final tournament had only come courtesy of a wild card granted by the IHF.

Back in June 2016 they had lost the play-offs against eventual bronze medallists Slovenia.

In the final, Norway enjoyed a brilliant start to the game thanks to outstanding goalkeeper Torbjoern Bergerud.

Three times Norway were ahead by three goals in the first 25 minutes but their 16:13 lead should become the turning point.

Over the next 12 minutes, France scored ten goals and only conceded two and in the 37th minute they suddenly led 23:18.

Even though Norway in their first men’s final reduced the gap to only three goals again with 15 minutes left to play, 25:22, the French victory was never threatened anymore.

One crucial key for France was the change of goalkeepers from Thierry Omeyer to Vincent Gerard. His saves destroyed the last Norwegian hopes.

“Norway played a very good first half but at half-time we led by one goal (18:17). This result gave us a lot of confidence. We knew this would be a very special game for 60 minutes. We have a lot of experience and the fans pushed us. When we were behind, I think they were very important“, said Omeyer.

His coach Didier Dinart, who took over the French team after the Olympic Games from three-time world champion Claude Onesta, was highly pleased after winning his first gold as coach following three (2001l, 2009, 2011) as player: “This night will never end for us. We have finished a perfect tournament with a perfect match. All of France can be proud of us.”

All-stars being named

Besides MVP Karabatic, right back Nedim Remili and goalkeeper Vincent Gerard made it into the All-star Team from France. Furthermore, three Norwegians and one Croat and one Swede were included.

For the first time at World Championships a player became top scorer who was eliminated already in the Last 16. Kiril Lazarov topped the ranking with 50 goals. It is his second top scorer crown following the World Championship 2009 when he scored and all-time high of 92 goals.

Following their title, France are the third team together with hosts Denmark and Germany to qualify for the World Championship 2019, the first men’s final tournament which will be hosted in two different countries.

The All-star Team overview

Left wing: Jerry TOLLBRING (SWE)
Left back: Sander SAGOSEN (NOR)
Centre back: Domagoj DUVNJAK (CRO)
Right back: Nedim REMILI (FRA)
Right wing: Kristian BJORNSEN (NOR)
Line player: Bjarte MYRHOL (NOR)
Goalkeeper: Vincent GERARD (FRA)

Top scorer: Kiril LAZAROV (MKD) – 50 goals
Most Valuable Player: Nikola KARABATIC (FRA)

The final ranking:

GOLD: France, SILVER: Norway, BRONZE: Slovenia

4. Croatia, 5 Spain, 6. Sweden, 7. Hungary, 8. Qatar, 9. Germany, 10.Denmark, 11. Belarus, 12. Russia, 13 Egypt, 14. Iceland, 15. FYR Macedonia, 16. Brazil, 17. Poland, 18. Argentina, 19. Tunisia, 20. Sausi-Arabia, 21. Chile, 22. Japan, 23. Bahrain, 24. Angola.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts