“The French team has become a sanctuary”

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5 January 2017

Didier Dinart and Guillaume Gille won everything with the Blues, starting with the world title of 2001, in Bercy. Reunited once more, this time on the bench, the two coaches from the French team discuss this new World Championship at home.

How do you feel about playing another championship again in France?

Guillaume Gille: This event has a special meaning after we had the opportunity of experiencing the emotional 2001 World Championship, and sharing that with the French public. It was a very powerful moment for this team, this generation.

Didier Dinart: It’s different because, since 2001, the French team has really changed status. It has become a sanctuary, a benchmark for world-class play.

In 2016, the Blues were knocked out before the semi-finals of the European Championship, then beaten in the final of the Olympic Games by Denmark … What predictions do you have for this year? Is there revenge in the air?

DD: We had six injured players heading into the European Championship and despite that, we were still on course to enter the last rounds

GG: So that result needs to be put in perspective

DD: The team was brought back together for the Games and made the necessary sacrifices. Playing an Olympic final doesn’t happen every day. The Olympics were lost on one match, but that doesn’t reflect everything that we achieved. A silver medal is something very rewarding and there are teams who can only dream of a bronze some day.

GG: The squad does feel a little frustrated not to have won gold, and given their team spirit, that makes sense. But our objective is not to play in the spirit of revenge, it is to be urged on by the desire to take part in a major competition, in France, in front of a home crowd. That is the most important thing. And revenge against whom? Revenge for what? The French are still the defending world champions.

Is it a chance to showcase your skills to a home crowd or is the home venue adding pressure?

GG: Whether I start in France or abroad, the pressure is always there. It is an integral part of the business. The expectations are always high and can only increase because the media and the public are too  “spoilt” by all the success. They are waiting to see the Blues’ next victory. It’s up to us to manage all of those things.

DD: I don’t think there is any particular pressure on us. I will play my fifth international competition (on the bench) and Guillaume is a former national team player, someone who knows how the French team functions, even if there have been improvements at the technical level. He knows how to adapt and knows the needs or state of mind of players at key moments.

Do you understand that everyone expects France to shine at home?

GG: History reminds us how difficult it is to win at home. So yes, because of their record, we want to see this French team at the top. But what is certain is that the way to achieve it is a tortuous, complex path.