Herning (Denmark) (AFP)

After being led for more than 50 minutes, the French handball players, holders of the continental title, won in pain against Montenegro (24-23) for their first match of the 2020 European Championship, Friday in Herning (Denmark) .

In recent years, Siraba Dembélé's teammates have struggled to get into their tournament: they lost at the opening of the 2017 World Cup against Slovenia, of Euro-2018 against Russia and against South Korea to start. the Mondial-2019.

In the end, they had been 2017 world champions and 2018 European champions, but had entered Japan last year.

On Friday, the false start scenario almost happened again: the Blues chased the score for more than 50 minutes.

"We are relieved to have won the match, on a somewhat dreaded scenario. We hoped to live this match with a little advance, that was not the case. We lacked a little lucidity. We did not. has still not found the key, "said coach Olivier Krumbholz.

- Kouyaté changes the match -

It was finally on a shot from right-back Aïssatou Kouyaté in the 52nd minute that they took control of the meeting, without however taking cover.

The 25-year-old Bisontine made a sensational entry for her first appearance in international competition.

She tipped the game on the bright side, with three goals in the last ten minutes, also causing two throws from 7 meters and two temporary exclusions.

"It was ten intense minutes. With the stress and the intense match, I didn't have to think too much," Kouyaté commented after the meeting.

The French left the doors open in defense for more than twenty minutes in the first period, allowing the Montenegrins, led by their captain Jovanka Radicevic to take the lead (9-4, 20th).

Thanks to the stops of Amandine Leynaud (6), the French gradually returned and returned to the locker room with only one goal behind, a lesser evil.

In the second half, the French women stammered their game less, slowly coming back to score against a less fit Montenegrin team.

Cléopatre Darleux's entry into the goal also paid off, with 7 saves for the Brest goalkeeper.

"It was not an easy match to win, considering how we were on board. I remember this positive: we showed character. Being led the whole match and coming back in front in the last ten minutes, it was is really good, ”said Captain Dembélé.

The French will meet Slovenia on Sunday at the end of the afternoon (6.15 p.m.), then Denmark on Tuesday (8.30 p.m.).

They must take one of the first three places to qualify for the main round, trying to lose the fewest points on the first round.

© 2020 AFP