Sensational second half secures France sixth world title

co_photos_finale_STEF5664 (1)

29 January 2017

Les Experts play an exceptional second half to claim their second consecutive trophy, and yet another IHF World Championship gold medal.

After trailing through the entire first half, France proved why they are one of the most successful national teams in the history of handball with an outstanding second 30 minutes that earned Les Experts their sixth IHF Men’s World Championship trophy. The victory also means France defend their 2015 title, which they won against Qatar in Doha two years ago.

Despite the loss, Norway celebrate their first ever medal at an international competition, as they claim silver after previously recording a highest ranking of fourth, at the EHF EURO 2016.

View the match stats here…

FINAL: France vs Norway 33:26 (18:17)

It was a one-for-one game with Norway holding the edge through the opening minutes, before a neat play from Sander Sagosen into Bjarte Myrhol opened a two-goal gap for the Scandinavian side at 6:4 in the ninth. Norway goalkeeper Torbjorn Bergerud saved his second in France’s next attack and it was clear the momentum early on was behind the team playing their maiden final, despite the 15,609 spectators in the arena supporting les Experts.

Norway maintained a steady one to two-goal advantage as the half progressed, and goalkeeper Espen Christensen kept a 9:7 lead for his team when he came on for Bergerud and saved a penalty shot against Michael Guigou. Each of France’s goals were met with huge applause, but Norway were unphased and their attack seemed to have little trouble against the hosts’ 6-0.

When France coaches Didier Dinart and Guillaume Gille called the first time-out of the match in the 17th, Norway’s back court had the highest scorers as Kent Robin Tonnesen and Espen Lie Hansen were having little trouble finding the back of the net. The right and left back hammered in three goals each by the time Dinart replaced Omeyer with Vincent Gerard in France’s goal.

When coach Christian Berge decided to give Lie Hansen a rest on the 20-minute mark he left the court with four goals to his name, while Tonnesen also tallied four out of four attempts, at which point Norway kept the two-goal distance at 13:11. The hosts chased their opponents but seemed at a loss for how to create opportunities in attack, while Norway’s positional play made finding gaps look effortless.

With five minutes remaining in the half, Norway had the chance to take a three-goal lead for the second time, but Gerard made his first save and the score stayed at 16:14 – and that save was the turning point of the match. From that moment the goalkeeper lifted his game, stopping two more shots through the dying minutes of the half.

Gerard’s work enabled his team to record a 4:1 run, closing the gap and turning the tide of the match completely as France claimed the advantage one second before the half-time buzzer thanks to a fast break from Valentin Porte.

When the match resumed Les Experts were far stronger, and as they took a 22:18 lead five minutes in, Berge was forced to use his time-out. It did little to help however – as the clock ticked on it was clear the early run France recorded through the start of the half would prove crucial. With a quarter of the match remaining France stayed in front by three at 25:22, and as the last nine minutes began France hit 30 goals to Norway’s 23.

Though Norway continued fighting to the end, France only had to hold on to the final whistle – and they did so to finish with a seven-goal advantage.

Post-match reactions: 

Thierry Omeyer, (FRA): “It’s hard to find the right words right now. It’s a great, great feeling to win at home. It was a great tournament for us. I am proud of my team and I am very happy for the fans, they pushed us the whole tournament. I don’t know yet if this will be my last championship. Right now all I want to enjoy this moment with my teammates, my friends and my family and we will see what the future will bring. We knew before the game that they have a very good team, a young team.”

Bjarte Myrhol (NOR): “It took about 10-15 minutes. We were a bit disappointed but then I got this medal around my neck and then everything was okay again. Playing the semi-final was probably the best moment of my career. It was really an unbelievable moment. We just wanted to go on and play our fast handball but we made some mistakes in the start of the second half and they were just too strong. Of course, playing in an arena with 15,000 people cheering for France played a role. But it was almost an advantage for us in the first half when we were leading. It was amazing.”

All-star team of France 2017:

Left wing: Jerry TOLLBRING (SWE)
Left back: Sander SAGOSEN (NOR)
Centre back: Domagoj DUVNJAK (CRO)
Right back: Nedim REMILI (FRA)
Right wing: Kristian BJORNSEN (NOR)
Line player: Bjarte MYRHOL (NOR)
Goalkeeper: Vincent GERARD (FRA)

Top scorer: Kiril LAZAROV (MKD) – 50 goals
Most Valuable Player: Nikola KARABATIC (FRA)

Photo: S. Pillaud /IHF