Edwige: ‘We can win medals only with our defence’

INTERVIEW: France's defence specialist Béatrice Edwige talks about how dangerous Croatia are as semi-final opponents, and how the team are pampering themselves in isolation

Photo © Uros Hocevar / kolektiff

World champion, European champion, Olympic silver medallist: Béatrice Edwige is the decorated defence boss of the French squad. On Friday the 32-year-old Edwige will face Croatia in the EHF EURO 2020 semi-final, both her and France’s third straight European semi-final since 2016.

ehf-euro.com: Congratulation for making it to the semi-final of the EHF EURO 2020 – as the only surviving team from the same stage in 2018.

Béatrice Edwige: Yes, you are right. I hadn’t thought of this. We can really be proud of it, as European championships are the toughest tournaments of all.

To be honest, after failing so early last year at the World Championship in Japan, our first goal was to proceed to the main round. Nothing more. Now we are in the semi-final, which makes me feel really happy for our team, our staff and especially our friends and families, who cannot be here right now. It is hard for us and hard for them – we are away from them for one month now, so we really feel happy for getting so far.

ehf-euro.com: Did the early elimination in Japan – where you started as defending champions – hit you so hard?

Béatrice Edwige: Even harder! We had a long discussion in the team afterwards, it was really tough and disappointing for us. We were really down, but from a certain point we said: the EURO is the next step, just look ahead to it.

ehf-euro.com: After your performances here in Denmark, everybody thinks of France as the favourites in the semi-final against Croatia. Do you agree?

Béatrice Edwige: We are really afraid of Croatia. They have nothing to lose, they are more friends than just teammates, they are really good, and they come out of the box with such a great fighting spirit.

For us, it is really hard to face this kind of team. We must stop them somehow, they are hard to play and they are dangerous. They are so cool and relaxed. So we should not make that big mistake to claim we are the favourites, but to prepare extremely intensely on the way we can make it to the final. Definitely, it will be 60 minutes of fight.

ehf-euro.com: For several decades, the French strength has been your defence – did you focus particularly on it ahead of this tournament?

Béatrice Edwige: We are more a team which wins with less than 25 conceded goals than by scoring 35, this is correct. But in preparation of this tournament we first focused on attack, not on defence, then right before we switched. Now, we are really focused on our defence.

You’re right: looking back on events when we won a medal, we won it mostly because of the defence. So if we want to win here, we have to play a strong defence. But we should not forget we have three of the globally best goalkeepers with us. Just imagine – a world class goalkeeper such as Laura Glauser is sitting in the tribunes. No other team has such a selection.

ehf-euro.com: Together with the two goalkeepers Laura Glauser and Amandine Leynaud you play in Györ at club level alongside other French players. Is this block another core of success?

Béatrice Edwige: I especially want to mention Amandine Leynaud. When I started playing in the national team, she helped me so much. I was shy and did not talk that much, but Amandine always gave me confidence, she forced me to become the defence boss, she helped me so much in my whole career, she was always there in good and difficult times, so I have to say ‘merci, Doudou!’

ehf-euro.com: Are there any major differences between the World Championship 2017 and the EHF EURO in 2018, when France won gold, and the 2020 EHF EURO?

Béatrice Edwige: Yes, and this is what is dangerous at this moment. In 2017 and 2018, we lost our first matches in the competition, against Slovenia and Russia. This year we haven’t lost any matches so far, but tied only with the Russians. We really have to beware that this first defeat does not happen in the semi-final, because this is the worst of all matches you can choose for a defeat.

If we win on Friday, we for sure have won a medal. And to be honest, at the moment I do not care about the colour if we return home with a medal. We don’t have to be the favourites for Friday, but the winners.

ehf-euro.com: You certainly have an advantage over Norway, for example, as you already qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Béatrice Edwige: We have qualified for the next World Championship, we have our ticket to Tokyo, and to be honest this is really cool, as such a play-off or qualification can really put huge pressure on you as a player or a team. So we can relax in this case, true.

ehf-euro.com: You mentioned friends and families at home – what is it like to only have that virtual contact?

Béatrice Edwige: It is strange, but we got used to it now. Usually, when we make it to a semi-final, they all would come here, Denmark is not so far away. But we knew the situation before, so we could anticipate everything without having them here.

ehf-euro.com: And it looks like the French team feel quite comfortable in their isolated hotel area.

Béatrice Edwige: Even at other tournaments, we do not go for shopping or coffee bars every day, as we stick together as a team all the time, the longer the better. We play cards, we have Switch here, we have a lot of games, so we really feel well.

ehf-euro.com: And I heard you have even opened your own spa in one hotel room?

Béatrice Edwige: Exactly, we have our own beauty place. Grace Zaadi and Laura Glauser are running it, you get your nails done, you receive facial and other beauty treatments, simply perfect.

ehf-euro.com: But Grace is also your team DJ?

Béatrice Edwige: Yes, to be honest, she has so many tasks and even more talents besides being a perfect playmaker.

written by Björn Pazen / jh