07 Aug. 2021
France had to wait nine years for another Olympic title, but ‘Les Experts’, a new incarnation of the team that dominated men’s handball in the last decade, duly delivered when it mattered most, by taking an overwhelming 25:23 win in the final against Denmark.
It was the third gold medal won at the Olympic Games for the French side, who moved into the first place of the all-time medal standings, becoming the first team to have ever won the gold medal three times.
Since the start of the competition, France have been touted as one of the favourites to win the trophy and they delivered the gold medal in style, by dropping only a single game from their eight played at Tokyo 2020, a performance only eclipsed by their Beijing 2008 antics, when France won by winning seven matches and drawing the other one.
A special mix of young players emerging to the big scene, like right back Dika Mem, centre back Romain Lagarde or line player Ludovic Fabregas, and a core of experienced veterans, headlined by back Nikola Karabatic, right wing Luc Abalo and goalkeeper Vincent Gerard, brought the much-needed depth and clarity for a team that broke the record of number of goals scored at one edition of the Olympic Games, 256.
Bar a hiccup against Norway in the last game of the group phase, which they lost 29:32, it was all plain sailing for France, who delivered an impressive tournament, which holds them accountable for another great showing in three years’ time, when they host the Olympic Games in Paris.
The final against Denmark was their fourth in a row at the Olympic Games and a great chance to avenge their painful loss from Rio 2016, when they were defeated 26:28 in the last act of the competition.
They fueled their ambition with that loss and started the game brightly, as Denmark failed to score more than 10 goals in the first half for the first time in 15 matches at the Olympic Games.
With a goal from Kentin Mahe, with three seconds to go until the buzzer, France took a 14:10 lead, which they extended to six goals early in the second half, 20:14.
However, despite Denmark’s heroic attempts for a comeback and Mikkel Hansen’s superb nine-goal outing, France could not be deterred and won their 10th final out of 12 played in major tournaments throughout the history.
With 30 seconds to go, Denmark had a chance to tie the game for the first time since the first half, but a passive play warning fueled their uncertainty. Mathias Gidsel, who has been playing a great tournament, conceded a turnover on a bad pass, with Ludovic Fabregas scoring an empty-goal shot to deliver the final blow and secure France’s 25:23 win.
It was the third gold medal for France and the third gold medal for Nikola Karabatic, Luc Abalo and Michael Guigou, as the three players are now the most decorated in the history of the competition.
Karabatic also won his 15th medal at major international tournaments, being a four-time world champion and a three-time Olympic and European champion.
Denmark’s Mikkel Hansen became the top scorer of the Olympic tournament for the first time in his career, with 61 goals, breaking the record for the largest number of goals scored in one tournament by a single player (men’s competition), held by Korea’s Kyungshin Yoon since Athens 2004.
Earlier, in the bronze-medal game, Spain secured third place after a 33:31 win against Egypt. It was Spain’s fourth bronze medal in the competition, after the ones won at Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008.