The second half of the 2018/19 season was like a crazy whirlwind for Méline Nocandy. The 21-year-old centre back experienced more in six months than some players do in a whole season.
In March, she made her national team debut during the Golden League, where France met Romania, Denmark and Norway.
Less than two months later, she discovered the DELO WOMEN’S EHF FINAL4 with her club, Metz Handball. Two years earlier she had still been with the club’s B team.
“A lot of things happened, but all of them were good,” Nocandy says with a smile. “Playing with France was a dream when I was a young handball player. For it to happen, alongside everything we achieved with Metz, was the cherry on the cake.”
“Not the end of the road, just the beginning”
The soft-spoken Nocandy, however, knows that she still has a lot to achieve, and that the hardest part is yet to come.
“I have to follow up, playing at the EHF FINAL4 and in three friendly games is not the end of the road for me, it’s only the beginning,” she says.
While Nocandy might not be a household name yet, her inclusion in the France squad for the EHF EURO 2020 Qualifiers in Group 6 against Turkey on 25 September and Iceland four days later does not come as a surprise - although she has not been taking anything for granted.
“This is only my second time. I am far from a regular,” says Nocandy, who was part of the French team that won the W19 EHF EURO 2017 in Slovenia two years ago.
“I have everything to prove yet, and these official games will be one more occasion for me to do so,” she adds. “In my head, and I guess in my teammates’ heads, I am still the newcomer who has a lot to learn.”
Getting help from long-term friend Orlane Kanor
Nocandy’s learning curve is similar to Orlane Kanor’s, another young Metz player who is among the country’s biggest prospects for the near future.
One year older than Nocandy, Kanor was already part of the French team that won the World Championship in 2017 in Germany. She is keen to help long-term friend Nocandy found her stride in the national team as well.
“She is the one I turn to when I have questions, she is a really close friend that helps me,” Nocandy says. “We arrived in Metz at the same time and we had our ‘firsts’ in handball at the same time more or less. It is actually nice to have someone to lean back on when things are tough.”
Looking forward to the 2024 Olympics - in Paris
A lot of national team handball will be coming up for the two teammates ahead of EURO 2020. In December, France will defend their title at the World Championship 2019 in Japan. And next summer, the Tokyo Olympics are taking place.
After losing the final in Rio in 2016, the French side will once again be among the favourites - likely with Méline Nocandy on the squad.
“I know there are players that have been there for a long time, so I try not to focus too much on that,” she says. “If I am on the team, then fine, but in the meantime there are so many things on the schedule that I don’t think too much about it right now.”
Nocandy admits, however, that it will be a different story in 2024, when she is 26 and the Olympics will be staged in Paris.