Bronze-medal match: “A prize” after a difficult tournament

31 Jan. 2021

Bronze-medal match: “A prize” after a difficult tournament

For powerhouses like France and Spain, bouncing back after painful losses can be tough, especially after conceding their first games in the semi-final at the IHF Men’s World Championship.

However, the two European rivals still have a game to play, with the winner earning the bronze medal at Egypt 2021.

France vs Spain 15:30 CAT

A loss in the business end of the IHF Men’s World Championship could very well mean that a team that challenged for the gold medal is out of contention. That is the true nature of knock-out handball at the world flagship handball event, therefore the room for error is slim.

It happened for two previously unbeaten sides at Egypt 2021, France and Spain, the two European powerhouses who were dreaming of another gold medal, having combined for six of the last eight titles in the tournament.

But after losing their unbeaten status in the semi-finals against Sweden and Denmark, the two sides will face off in the bronze-medal match, with their ambitions quashed, but still in with a chance to re-write history.

Bouncing back can be tough, but there is little in handball that the Spanish and French have not seen, with the two sides on the podium in the experience ranking at Egypt 2021.

While Spain never really got going against Denmark and failed to take the lead even once, the disappointment was huge for France. “Les Experts” were on a seven-game winning streak at the 27th IHF Men’s World Championship and looked like the team to beat, firing on all cylinders in attack and with a smart, mobile defensive system that exerted pressure on opponents.

Yet the French side conceded a 26:32 loss against Sweden, with the Scandinavian side scoring with 86 per cent of the shots they made in the 60 minutes played in the Cairo Stadium Indoor Sports Hall.

Goalkeepers Vincent Gerard and Yann Genty only combined for four saves in 60 minutes against Sweden, and France will need more from them against Spain if they are to finish the tournament with a medal.

“We switch immediately at the end of this game to find the energy and to focus on the next game. To my mind we played a very good tournament. We were also unlucky, we lose some players in the last game, it was two players injured. I’ll tell you again, immediately after the game we switch to the next one,” said French left wing Michael Guigou, after the loss against Sweden.

There will be no time to dwell on memories past from France if they want to earn their 12th gold medal in history at the IHF Men’s World Championship.

Spain also need to let go of their close loss against Denmark, 35:33, after line player Ruben Marchan missed the game-tying shot with 11 seconds to go.

The most experienced side in the competition, with an average age of 30.2 years old, Spain can still win against any opponent. In fact, they were close to exerting serious pressure on a flawless Danish side, in a semi-final that can become an instant classic in the future.

“We obviously are disappointed after failing to reach the final, we missed just a bit of luck in the crucial moments to tie the game and be able to try and win it. But we must now focus on the game against France, our focus must be on winning and thinking that the bronze medal is a prize for us, we must fight to win it and end the tournament on a high,” said Spanish coach, Jordi Ribera.

The two sides met 35 times, with France winning 20 games, as opposed to Spain’s 11 wins, including the last mutual meeting between them, a 27:23 win for “Los Hispanos” in the semi-final at the Men’s EHF EURO 2018.

Spain played in the bronze medal four times at the IHF Men’s World Championship, winning it only once, at Sweden 2011, while France won the bronze four times in five tries, most recently at Germany/Denmark 2019, with a 26:25 win against hosts Germany.