26 Nov. 2019
Olivier Krumbholz’s France team won all three of their games at the official test event for the men’s and women’s handball competitions at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – the Japan Cup 2019 Shibuya (Women).
Alongside Slovenia, Brazil and host nation Japan, the four teams were in action in the competition which took place from Thursday 21 to Sunday 24 November at the Yoyogi National Stadium, the site of the men’s and women’s handball competitions at the Olympic Games next year and a ‘Legacy Stadium’ of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Organised by the Japan Handball Association (JHA) along with the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and IHF, France won the round-robin tournament, which all four teams used as their final warm-up ahead of the 2019 IHF Women’s World Championship in Japan which gets underway later this week.
In the opening game Krumbholz’s side took on Jorge Duenas’ Brazil, easily beating them by 11 goals. For the first 20 minutes the game was close after Adrian Cardoso de Castro scored for Brazil to bring the match within one, at 8:7 to France, but the French then scored eight unanswered to go on and take the victory, 33:22.
The second match of the first day saw the host nation Japan grab a point in a 28:28 draw with Slovenia in a match where Ana Gros scored 10 for the visitors. The home side, playing with just 15 instead of the 16 allowed players, saw Mayuko Ishitate put them 28:27 ahead as the game went into the final minute, only for Gros to reach double figures after she sunk home from a penalty.
Japan still had 25 seconds to score the winner with coach Ulrik Kirkely taking a time out, but Japan could only shoot wide and the game ended in a draw.
Following a rest day, the second round of matches saw Slovenia come back from a half-time deficit to beat Brazil 33:29 after they went on a 3:0 run with just under 10 minutes remaining to make it 29:25 and have enough of a lead to see the 60 minutes out. Gros again impressed, scoring eight times.
Astride N’Gouan’s seven goals were enough to see off Japan for France as the host nation could only keep in touch until the 20th minute, after which her side went on a 6:3 run to go in 15:11 up at the break and eventually finish 28:23 winners.
Unfortunately for the hosts, they could not finish with a win in their final game as Brazil defeated them 28:22, with the same story after the first 20 minutes as it was against France. A 5-0 run from the South Americans from the 40th-49th minute made the difference 10 goals (27:17) and the match decided.
The sixth and final game of the test event saw the winners of Slovenia vs France crowned champions, and with Slovenia coach Uros Bregar rotating his squad to bring in younger players, their team of just 14 – missing Gros – were no match for the Olympic silver medallists who easily won 33:21.
The game was even until the 17th minute (9:9) but a 6:0 run to half-time and then 7:1 rally directly after the break saw France 12 goals ahead (22:10) early on and they took their foot off of the pedal for the remaining 20 minutes.
Despite sitting out the final game, Gros ended as the tournament top-scorer with 18 goals in her two matches and along with her Slovenia team travelled directly to Amakusa after the test event concluded.
Amakusa lies 1,000km south-west of Tokyo and is just off the coast of Kumamoto, where the European squad will fly to for their final preparations ahead of their opening group A match against Netherlands on Saturday (30 November).
1 France – 6 points
2 Slovenia – 3 points
3 Brazil – 2 points
4 Japan – 1 point
Thursday 21 November
France vs Brazil 33:22 (16:7)
Japan vs Slovenia 28:28 (14:13)
Friday 22 November
Saturday 23 November
Brazil vs Slovenia 29:33 (16:15)
Japan vs France 23:28 (11:15)
Sunday 24 November
Japan vs Brazil 22:28 (14:18)
Slovenia vs France 21:33 (9:15)
PHOTO: French Handball Federation