France left no doubt on the court after their opening match of the 25th IHF Men’s Handball World Championship, as they defeated Brazil with a clear margin to earn their first two points of the competition – and the first win at a major international tournament for new coaching duo Didier Dinart and Guillame Gille.
"It was a dream start. We prepared for three weeks to be here today. The players were committed to begin well. Our last match against Brazil [at the 2016 Olympic Games] was very tough," said Dinart. "A good point was the turnovers, without burning off our physical reserves. The atmosphere inside the arena was great, our goal is to come back here in the best condition, but it will be a long hard road."
With their elegant performance on Wednesday, featuring a save rate of 67 per cent for goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer, strong shooting from the likes of Daniel Narcisse, Michael Guigou and Valentin Porte who all scored on every attempt in the first half, and trademark 6-0 that shut down Brazil’s usual stand-out attackers, the hosts showed they are in excellent form as they start their campaign to defend their 2015 title.
France vs Brazil 31:16 (17:7)
It was a sign of things to come when France scored the opening two goals straight through the middle of Brazil’s active defensive system within the first two minutes. Goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer let Brazil know they would have difficulty finding the goal throughout the 60 minutes early, as he stopped shots from all over the court – including breakthroughs right in front of the goal.
Brazil goalkeeper Cesar August Almeida made a save and seemed to catalyse a change for the Pan American team, whose first goal came from left wing Cleryston David Novais minutes later. But the relief was short-lived and France capitalised on the vocal home crown to open a 4:1 advantage by the time Brazil coach Washington Nunes called the first time-out of the match.
Brazil found France’s 6-0 defence backed by the saves of Omeyer a significant challenge, as their usual back-court shooters such as Jose Guilherme Toledo and Haniel Vinicius Langaro were shut down and clear opportunities were too-often stopped by the hosts’ outstanding keeper.
By the 10th minute when Valentin Porte scored from outside the home team had pulled ahead to a commanding five-goal advantage at 7:2, but France coaches Dinart and Gille did not see a reason to start rotating through their bench yet. France maintained the five-goal difference at 8:3 midway through the half, and it was not until the 20-minute mark that Dinart and Gille made their first change, bringing Kentin Mahe on in place of veteran left wing Michael Guigou.
When France took a 10-goal lead into the break they looked comfortably on their way to a win, and in the second half the momentum stayed well and truly with the hosts. Changes including Vincent Gerard coming into goal and Nikola Karabatic spending the second period on the bench with Omeyer did not affect the flow of France’s game – but did demonstrate the depth of their squad – and they steadily increased their advantage to 22:8 10 minutes into the second period.
France were well in control at 28:14 five minutes before the final whistle, after which Gerard became the star with spectacular saves including a penalty and the final goal of the match off a long-range shot inside his own goal circle. At the final whistle France celebrated a strong start to their home competition, as Gerard was named Player of the Match in front of the 15,700-strong sold-out crowd in AccorHotels Arena.
"We knew that the French team is among the best teams in the world. For our part, we have a lot of young players in the Brazilian team, who are adapting little by little," said Brazil centre back Joao da Silva. "It was a very tough game for us. Congratulations to the French team. We are now going to prepare for the next game. The World Championship is just beginning."