24 January 2017
It’s a remake of the 2001 final won by France against Sweden that will be played tomorrow night in front of 28,000 spectators at the Pierre Mauroy stadium in Lille.
Quarter-final: France vs Sweden, 19:00, Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille
The so-far undefeated French side will have their work cut out against a young but hungry Sweden team. A team which would very much like knock out the host and the defending world champion on home soil. “It will be a huge game, in front of so many spectators, a real event. But if we play our game, with our strong defence and our fast breaks, we might have a chance to reach the semi-finals,” said goalkeeper Andreas Palicka yesterday evening.
France are also taking Sweden very seriously, for instance, right back Valentin Porte commented: “Sweden are very strong, they certainly deserved to beat Denmark in the group phase, had Landin not had this crazy game. We’re going to have to go up in gears a bit when compared to the Iceland game in the eighth-finals.”
Games between the two teams have always been close like, of course, in 2001, when the World Championship final went into overtime. In London in 2012, in the Olympic final, we had another close tie in which France had won another title, winning in the end 22:21. As a proof that the two teams can’t be separated the last five match-ups all ended on a plus three-goal difference or less. The last one, at the last World Championship in Qatar in 2015, saw France winning 27:25 whereas the one before, Sweden won 27:25. Over the course of the last twenty years, France have won eight times and Sweden six in official competitions.
Two players to watch…
The left side of the court is going to be an interesting one. Between Michael Guigou and Niklas Ekberg, we’re looking at two high-voltage players. The two were already part of the Olympic final in 2012 and are, at the moment, top scorers in their respective teams. The Swede, with 39 goals, can still dream of becoming top scorer of the competition title while Guigou, hasn’t got such a high record. Is it a sign that France rely more on their collective force? Maybe, but the Montpellier player was the main man for France in the eighth-final, as Ekberg was against Belarus. This head-to-head is going to be a hot one!
Photo: Pillaud/Crosnier – IHF / Francehandball2017