06 Dec. 2023
Olivier Krumbholz’s Olympic champions France finally gave a glimpse of their power as they swept aside Austria in Trondheim to almost seal their quarter-final spot.
Coach Krumbholz had said in the lead up to the match that his side still had “imperfections”, but he would have been happy with the 14-goal win over the wildcard European side.
Main Round, Group II
France vs Austria 41:27 (25:14)
By half-time this game was over as France racked up 25 goals in a blistering first 30 minutes. It was the most first half goals they had scored at the 2023 IHF Women’s World Championship so far and they were on course to surpass their highest-ever total scored in the competition history when they beat Australia 46:7 at Japan 2019.
Their 41 goals equals their second-best goalscoring haul at an IHF Women’s World Championship, when they beat Japan at the 2011 edition.
It was almost as if their performance was to say to the co-hosts – and favourites for the title – Norway, who opened their main round campaign after this match - ‘this is what stands in your way’.
All aspects of their game were impressive, in the ways you would expect – in attack and defence, but the sheer speed at which they replied to every single time Austria scored or failed to score on their 7v6.
Goalkeeper Laura Glauser would retrieve the ball and within five or six seconds invariably Sarah Bouktit would be on the centre circle, ready, prepared and expertly dispatching the ball into the empty Austrian net.
If not Bouktit, the lightning pace of Chloe Valentini would already be deep in the Austria half but evidence – if needed – of the different level her side were on was when she expertly delayed her re-entry from the bench to an Austria restart, swiping the ball and promptly running into score.
After 20 minutes, Krumbholz had completely changed his six court starters, but it did not upset their rhythm as they ended the opening period with an 81% effectiveness in attack, while restricting Austria to just one goal in a near-12 minute period in the middle.
Krumbholz and his team left the court to a wide-smiling Grace Zaadi, standing on the sidelines and all would have been wondering what was left to do in the second half.
The answer was not much, and if there was any chink in the French armour on show tonight you could argue that the very best teams are the ones which are relentless, but with that double-digit lead, the need to rotate players and qualification almost already in the bag, then you can forgive them a second half with less energy.
hummel Player of the Match: Ines Ivancok (Austria)