Five in a row for France, as quarter-final loom for ‚ÄúLes Experts‚ÄĚ

20 Jan. 2023

Five in a row for France, as quarter-final loom for ‚ÄúLes Experts‚ÄĚ

France started the third consecutive edition of the IHF Men’s World Championship with five wins in a row, dominating the Islamic Republic of Iran (41:29), as they are through to the quarter-finals at Poland/Sweden 2023.

Main Round Group I

Islamic Republic of Iran vs France 29:41 (14:18)

After Spain‚Äôs win against Slovenia earlier, France secured their quarter-final berth, with the only question left being whether ‚ÄúLes Experts‚ÄĚ would finish first or second in Group I of the main round at Poland/Sweden 2023.

The match against the Islamic Republic of Iran was not of the utmost importance as France could seal the first place with a win against Spain on Sunday, yet that did not mean that Guillaume Gille was going to serve the match on a silver platter to the Asian side.

What Gille did though was to manage minutes for his players, leaving Nikola Karabatińá out of the team entirely, for example, and creating opportunities for every player to feature on the court, readying them for the last part of the competition, the crunch clash against Spain and the others in the knockout phase.

As Iran are coached by Veselin Vujovińá, renowned for his competitive spirit, the Asian side tried to take advantage of France‚Äôs setup and for the first ten minutes they managed to stay in the game, with both sides scoring seven times.

But that was just an illusion for Iran, who had nowhere near the depth and talent needed to confront France in a match at the IHF Men’s World Championship. First, the reigning Olympic champions used a 3:0 unanswered run, adding another 4:1 run a few minutes later.

The lead grew to five goals (15:10), with only three players failing to appear on the scoresheet, while goalkeeper Rémi Desbonnet, who took over the job from Vincent Gérard in this match, saved nine shots for a 39% saving efficiency. Yet France could still not pull away due to plenty of missed shots and turnovers, as it seemed clear that the European side was not fully focused on the match.

A 4:0 start of the second half was everything that France needed to cement their position in the match, as they came back more focused, taking almost every chance they had to create a better goal difference in the match, needed to leapfrog Spain in the standings.

Down by 10 goals in the standings, France needed a big win to create an opportunity to afford a draw in the last match of the main round against Spain to win the group, and they constantly pushed in the second half to reach that goal.

While Gille shuffled his lineup once again, ‚ÄúLes Experts‚ÄĚ looked more composed and totally delivered on defence, finishing the match with nine steals and constantly exposing and frustrating Iran‚Äôs attack, which never got going and whose efficiency plummeted.

As France used all their players at their disposal, bar goalkeeper Vincent Gérard, they had 14 different scorers on the sheet, all of their outfield players, cruising to a 49:21 win. This means that they start the last matchday of the main round in Krakow in first place, boasting a better goal difference (+29), than Spain’s +10.

With five wins in five matches, France again look like a top contender, sealing their 16th consecutive berth for the quarter-finals. On the other hand, Iran are still in last place in the group and will face their last match in the competition on Sunday when they face co-hosts Poland in Krakow.

hummel Player of the Match: Thibaud Briet (France)