After winning three times a bronze medal at the EHF EURO, France finally stepped on top of the podium in 2018, at home.
But as the mantra goes, “the hardest is not to reach the top but to remain there”, France proved to have trouble with their sudden fame, being eliminated in the first round at the last world championship.
With a roster constantly reshaping and some older players saying goodbye to the EHF EURO this year, France hope to retain their title in Denmark.
Have France learnt from their 2019 World Championship disappointment?
A silver medal at the 2016 Olympics, a bronze medal at the EHF EURO 2016 before their world and European titles in 2017 and 2018, France arrived in Japan last December as firm favourites. But they were eliminated from the World Championship after the preliminary round.
“The girls had the illusion that they were motivated when, in fact, they were not. We played against teams that were hungrier than us in Japan. We tried everything so this does not happen again,” explains coach Olivier Krumbholz, who chose to make a few tweaks to the team travelling to Denmark.
Under the spotlight: Laura Flippes
The Paris 92 player has definitely stepped up this season as one of the possible stalwarts for France’s new generation. While, three years ago, she was only third choice for the right wing position, she has now become number one and can even help on the back court.
Her ability to play right on both positions and her experience, gained in Metz playing the DELO EHF Champions League every season, will make her one of the key players for France in the coming years – if she has not already sealed her spot in this position.
How they rate themselves
When you ask Krumbholz, who came back on the bench early 2016, whether France are among the favourites for the forthcoming EHF EURO, he says: “Since 2016, four teams are very often on top: France, Russia, Norway and the Netherlands. In every competition, three of these four were in the semi-finals, with a guest. At the last world championship, we were the missing team from the top four.”
In his mind, France remain a candidate for every major title, and in the next nine months, there are two on the line – the Olympics next summer but, first and foremost, the EHF EURO.
“A tough competition, with a preliminary round which already looks like a main round,” says Krumbholz, who just wants his team to take one game at a time.
Did you know?
Györ’s goalkeeper, Amandine Leynaud, will meet the team directly in Denmark. At 33, she has an arrangement with Krumbholz not to take part in the EHF EURO preparation, and she was not there in September when the team gathered to play the Golden League in Denmark.
Despite this, Leynaud remains the firm first-choice goalkeeper for the EHF EURO, two years on from winning the All-star Team goalkeeper award on home soil.
What the numbers say
A total of 13 of the 17 European champions in 2018 will try to retain their title in Denmark this December. Manon Houette, Allison Pineau, Camille Ayglon-Saurina and Gnosiane Niombla will not be part of the France team in Herning. Houette and Pineau are injured while Krumbholz decided not to call on the latter two.
Participations 11 (including 2020)
Winners (1): 2018
Bronze medal (3): 2002, 2006, 2016
5th place: 2000, 2010, 2014
Winners (3): 2003, 2017
Runners-up (3): 1999, 2009, 2011
5th: 2001, 2017