France beat Slovenia to finish first in their pool

France beat Slovenia to finish first in their pool

With three victories in as many games, French handball players have plenty of points in the preliminary round of the World Cup, which takes place in Poland and Sweden from January 11 to 29. In Katowice, at Spodek, a sports hall in the shape of a flying saucer, the Olympic champions dominated Slovenia with authority (35-31).

This meeting between two victorious teams from Poland and Saudi Arabia was a serious test for the French. Net winners of the Poles on Saturday (32-23), the Slovenians did not approach this match against one of the favorites of the competition as expiatory victims.

Read also: Handball World Cup 2023: without forcing, the Blues crush Saudi Arabia, and climb to the main round

The beginning of the meeting was removed, sometimes disheveled, between two teams players, carried towards the attack. It was not until the end of the first quarter of an hour to see France come away with the score (9-6), in particular thanks to the 500e goal in selection of the half-center Kentin Mahé. In the absence of Dika Mem, injured in the abdominals, the other tricolor executives responded present: Nikola Karabatic, Ludovic Fabregas and, above all, Nedim Remili, in a big evening, dominated the debates.

Fast-paced, the Slovenians came up against the power of the French pivots and at times seemed hopeless except, intermittently, for powerful right-back Aleks Vlah. At the 23e minute, France took a five-goal lead thanks to two goals from Nedim Remili, untenable.

A series of French errors, including two balls in the face of goalkeeper Urban Lesjak, resulting in the exclusion for two minutes of Valentin Porte, then of Melvyn Richardson, would however put the Slovenians back in the game. Urban Lesjak pulled off some fine saves, preventing the French from scoring for three minutes. At the break, the gap was only two goals in favor of the Blues.

Nedim Remili’s injury

Dominating physically, the Habs returned from the locker room with the firm intention of killing the game. At the 35e minute, Dylan Nahi won his duel against Urban Lesjak, allowing France to extend the gap to five goals (21-16), while the Slovenians seemed overwhelmed by the French speed. At the 46e, the explosive winger from Kielce took the advantage of the Blues to seven goals. The outcome of the meeting was then no longer in doubt.

In an end to the match without suspense, only the exit on injury of Nedim Remili, sparkling until then, singularly darkened the final table. In his absence, Nikola Karabatic and Kentin Mahé shared the position of playmaker in the last ten minutes.

Read also: Handball World Cup 2023: revenge, France aims for the title

“It was a real test. We were frustrated at the break, because we had the feeling of being dominating and the Slovenians were nevertheless glued to our coattails. We had to work to distance them in the second half., declared Guillaume Gille, the coach of the Blues, at the microphone of BeIN Sports, at the end of the meeting:

“We are well launched in this competition, despite the injury of Nedim Remili. I think it’s a small muscle contracture, it’s part of the hazards in this type of fight. We’re going to do tests and we’ll know more tomorrow. »

First in Group B, the Tricolores will make the short trip (80 kilometers) from Katowice to Krakow, in southern Poland. They will face three teams from Group A: Montenegro, Wednesday, Spain, two days later, then Iran or Chile, Sunday, January 22. The reunion with Spain, where several French internationals play (Ludovic Fabregas, Melvyn Richardson and Dika Mem) promises to be tough. He is a formidable opponent, very consistent at the highest level (winner of Euro 2020, third in the 2021 World Cup and finalist of Euro 2022).

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To reach the quarter-finals, Guillaume Gille’s men will have to finish in one of the first two places in their group in the main round. The Blues will only go to Sweden if they qualify for the quarters – Stockholm hosts two quarter-finals, a semi-final, the final (January 29) and the classification matches of the 5e at the 8e square.