France handball squad seek Olympic redemption after fourth place at world championships

By Paul Myers - RFI
France Petr David Josek POOLAFP
FEB 1, 2021 LISTEN
Petr David Josek POOL/AFP

France's handball team coach Guillaume Gille has targeted a place at this summer's Olympic Games as the next goal for his squad following a disappointing end to the world championships in Egypt.

Spain beat France 35-29 to claim the bronze medal. Denmark edged past Sweden 26-24 to retain the crown.

“It's always very difficult to lose your last game in a championship,” said Gille.

“Spain deserved the medal. They played better than us and we have to accept that. They showed us what kind of form we have to work towards.”

France won all seven of their matches in the first two phases of the tournament which started on 13 January.

Hunting a record-extending seventh world championships title, they lost to Sweden in the semis and were outmuscled in the bronze medal match.

However in five weeks in Montpellier, they will take on Tunisia, Portugal - a team they beat in Egypt - as well as European championships runners-up Croatia. Two will advance to the Tokyo Games.

“I'm really proud of how we performed at the world championships," added Gille. “But it's important that we switch our focus quickly to the next test in Montpellier."

The qualification matches were initially scheduled for the AccorHotels-Arena in Paris last April but were postponed due to the national lockdown to fight the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

In July, the French handball federation anointed the Sud de France Arena as the venue for the Olympic qualification matches.

“Our Olympic destiny depends on this tournament,” added Gille. “They will be three very tough games.”

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