France seal main round berth with a bang

14 Jan. 2023

France seal main round berth with a bang

France secured their place in the main round of the 28th edition of the IHF Men’s World Championship, sealing their second win in as many games in Group B, 41:23, against Saudi Arabia.

Group B

France vs Saudi Arabia 41:23 (24:14)
After the 26:24 win in the opening match against Poland, France were eyeing to seal their second win in a row and progress to the main round with a win against Saudi Arabia, a team they were clear favourites against.

With the huge differences in experience, depth and quality between the two sides, it was not even a question about who the winner was going to be as France jumped to a 3:0 lead after only three minutes to which Jan Pytlick’s side had no answer.

But as France installed them comfortably in the driver’s seat, the Asian side suddenly found some firepower, taking advantage of the five turnovers made by Guillaume Gille’s side. 

By the 16th minute, the Asian side closed the gap to only two goals (12:10), with France taking the match for granted and letting some precious goals slip away through the type of mistakes only made by sides who are not focused enough.

Yet Gille substituted some players and France started to click immediately, using a 7:0 run spurred by four goals from right wing Yanis Lenne to basically wrap up the win as their opponents failed to score for eight minutes and 14 seconds and the attack collapsed without any sign that it could go better.

And in fact, it went even worse; by half-time, France had a 10-goal lead (24:14), displaying their best-attacking performance in the first half in 16 years at the IHF Men’s World Championship, one goal shy of the record set against Australia, 25 goals, at Germany 2007.

It was either sloppiness or lifting the foot from the pedal. Still, France scored only seven times in the first 15 minutes of the second half as Guillaume Gille handed his key players as much rest as possible, while star right back Dika Mem was rested altogether, not making it into the squad.

It meant that all of France’s outfield players scored at least one goal in the match, with right wing Yanis Lenne and centre back Kentin Mahé leading the way with eight and six goals respectively. Mahé, in particular, was excellent as he took his overall tally for France to 498 goals, two goals shy of the 500-goal milestone.

That did not impact France’s overall control of the match, with the reigning Olympic champions still outplaying their opponents, who finished the match with 23 turnovers, one too many for a match of this magnitude at the IHF Men’s World Championship.

Eventually, France sealed a clear 41:23 win against Saudi Arabia, extending their streak to two wins in a row at Poland/Sweden 2023, while they handed the Asian side their second loss in as many matches in the tournament, with the prospects of the President’s Cup being closer and closer.

In the last round of the group, France will face Slovenia to try and progress to the main round with four points, which they will do if they win. At the same time, Saudi Arabia hope to avoid a loss by more than 10 goals, as they conceded against France and Slovenia, when they face the co-hosts Poland.

hummel Player of the Match: Nicolas Tournat (France)