29 January 2017
Ahead of the final of the 25th IHF Men’s Handball World Championship between France and Norway in the AccorHotels Arena in Paris (17:30 CET). We spoke to ex-world and EURO champions and experts in their field about the upcoming gold medal match. It’s clear that the favourite on everyone’s lips is France, with all five of our experts going with Les Experts. Should they be correct it will be France’s sixth world title after seven finals and if they are wrong it will be Norway’s first ever title at a major handball event.
Staffan Olsson, two-time world champion, four-time EURO with Sweden and assistant coach for PSG:
Bitesize: Games between these sides are never easy
“Of course, France are seen to be the favourites by most people and they are also my favourite to win. They have huge experience and a vast array of star players in their ranks and above all, the fact that they are playing at home here in Paris is massive. But I do think Norway can cause them some problems, they have played a couple of times against each other and it was never an easy game for both sides. What’s really good about Norway is they are full of confidence and they don’t seem to fear France, so I think it will be a tough game but France will be just too good for them at the end.
Tom Ó Brannagáin, EHF Champions League commentator:
Bitesize: “Six versus six there is no better team than France”
“I’m going France. Not just because of all the star players and the strong bench and the fact that they have an entire stadium behind them on home ground. But also because they are hungry after the loss at the Olympics and they have so many options in attack. Their defence is outstanding and six versus six there is no better team than France.
“And I think that Norway for the past few years have blitzed everyone they have faced on counters. If you lose the ball and haven’t properly organised the defence then nobody can punish you like Norway. They are incredibly efficient in finding the gap. However – and this is the rub – I’ve been slightly hesitant about their overall ability to break down an organised defence when each player in his position and settled. This was particularly evident against Croatia where I think they struggled even more than usual. And I think this could be their downfall.
“I would love to just see a tight final that keeps us intrigued to the last minute and after that I’m not bothered who might win.”
Ljubomir Vranjes, 1999 world champion, three-time EURO champion with Sweden and head SG Flensburg coach:
Bitesize: “France have more ‘stars’ to choose from”
“I think the home team France have a big advantage, and not only because they are the home team but also because they have one extra day off. The squad is very broad and they have more ‘stars’ to choose from, but Norway are confident, have a good coach and most importantly they love to run. From my experience, France don’t seem to like teams who run a lot. If Norway can recover well from the game last night and start they game confidently they might be able to do something. Look, they have beaten them before in the EURO so they will take huge confidence from that win too.
Lars Christiansen, all-time top scorer for Denmark and two-time EURO champion:
Bitesize: “I would put it at 60/40 in France’s favour”
“I think of course France are the favourites. But anything can happen especially when you play as fast as Norway do. I would put it at 60/40 in France’s favour at the moment. The most difficult opponent for France is themselves because everyone has them down to win; everyone thinks they have won it already, and that can be tough. Especially when you are playing at home.
Bertrand Gille, two-time world champion, two-time Olympic champion and two-time EURO champion with France
Bitesize: “France are stronger in every area”
“I think France will win the final. Even though Norway have a very good team, the French squad is just better. Regardless of their (Norway) form throughout during this World Championship, France really have everything they need to make it very difficult for this Norwegian team in sporting terms, without even mentioning the crowd. France are stronger in every area.”