Home or medal in sight?
Having recovered from its failure at Euro 2020, the French handball team will only confirm its return to the forefront if it survives the quarterfinal against Hungary on Wednesday (8:30 p.m.) in the suburbs of Cairo.
"We are in a tipping point in the competitions. Whoever either sends us home or allows us to play two more matches for a medal."
At the foot of the pyramids, coach Guillaume Gille recalled, for having experienced so much as a player, the stake of a quarter-final.
The Blues have seen others, in particular the tauliers Michaël Guigou (38 years old) and Luc Abalo (36 years old), adorned with gold on so many occasions in the last fifteen years (respectively 4 and 3 world titles, plus three European crowns and 2 OJ for both).
The youngest - Nedim Remili (25), Ludovic Fabregas (24) and Dika Mem (23) - had the last star, won in 2017 at home.
But they especially experienced the failures that followed, including the last, bitter: an elimination in the first round of Euro-2020.
"For 2-3 years, we haven't really been at the level we wanted to be," Mem admitted.
With six successes in the group stage, the Blues seized the first opportunity to recover.
"If we had been told that a year ago, we would have all signed, I think, commented the right-back, imperial against Portugal. We have come a long way."
- The Spanish impasse -
Much superior Sunday in Portugal (32-23), which had surprised it at the Euro, the France team "found itself" on this last test before serious matters.
"But this match does not give us anything, no medal", insists the Barcelonan.
What the Blues have won is a wide open path to the podium, in a half of the table where neither Denmark, nor Spain, nor Norway, the three other big contenders for the throne appear.
But he goes through Hungary, whose only silver medal dates back to 1986.
Virgin of recent charts, Hungary has however "done beautiful things in recent years," said Gille.
Regularly present in the quarterfinals of the Worlds, the last time in 2017, she was able to remain "very stable" in Egypt to get rid of Germany, Brazil and Poland.
Before skipping, once qualified, on the shock against Spain on Monday (36-28) by sparing his executives Maté Lékai, Bence Banhidi, Roland Mikler and Pedro Rodriguez.
Thus giving the impression of preferring France to Norway, and avoiding the most difficult part of the table with Denmark.
"It's their choice", commented Gille, who emphasizes that these are "calculations that have rarely paid off in an international competition. I hope that tomorrow we will be able to show them that they were wrong. not to play to the end. "
- The Lékai - Banhidi axis -
For Mem, this Hungarian non-match "is a bit of a lack of respect", even if "we also have to put ourselves in their shoes: we play every other day".
After all, the French also rested center-half Kentin Mahé during three-quarters of the game against Portugal, and were given an extra day of rest.
It will not be too much to find loopholes against goalkeeper Mikler (11 saves per game on average) and muzzle Bence Banhidi (2.06 m, 120 kg), "perhaps one of the best pivots in the world today" according to winger Valentin Porte.
A role devolved to the French defense towers Ludovic Fabregas and Luka Karabatic who will have to anticipate the intentions of the Hungarian center-half Maté Lékai, generally in search of the hands of Banhidi.
"The focus is on this half-center / pivot relationship because the Hungarian game essentially revolves around this pair," said Gille.
We must not neglect either, adds Porte, “the long-distance power” of the “big guys” Magyars.
Otherwise, French reconstruction will come to a halt, at the gates of the Egyptian desert.
© 2021 AFP