They did not want to "burn a joker": the French handball players kept all their cards in hand, with a short success against Hungary (30-29) on Sunday for their first round of the Olympic tournament at the Yoyogi stadium in Tokyo.
First points welcome for the Blues who inherited at the Games a dense group in the first round with from Tuesday Spain, then Sweden, Russia (under neutral flag) and finally Brazil who stood up to the Russians ( 24-24).
"It is the group of death, insisted Sunday the coach Olivier Krumbholz. The hens are unbalanced, there were three games more than 10 goals behind in the other group. For us, it will be the brawl at all matches. "
Starting with the first against Hungary.
In search of the only title they lack - Olympic gold - its players have almost revived their bad habit: an unexpected defeat for their debut.
As against South Korea, here in Japan during the World-2019 in Kumamoto.
As at Euro-2018 and before it, the World-2017.
- "A small hole" -
After a great start, the French women crumbled in defense, their usual strong point.
"We started the match well, but behind we had a small hole," admits Laura Flippes.
The 4-0 inflicted from the start to the Hungarians was followed by a 4-0 suffered by the Blue, who were still tied (12-12) three minutes from the break and could thank Amandine Leynaud.
Well present after being preserved in the last preparation match against Montenegro - like the pivot Pauletta Foppa - the goalkeeper allowed the Blue not to pass behind Hungary.
"I think it's a team that will qualify, analyzes Olivier Krumbholz. They have the weapons to annoy almost everyone in the quarter-finals."
In addition to Leynaud's 7 saves in the first period (39%), it took two brilliant shots from Estelle Nze Minko for them to stand out just before the break (15-12) with a goal on the counterattack , then an interception converted into a goal by Flippes.
An advantage then managed somehow by this team of France, world champion in 2017 and Europe in 2018, but lessened by serial injuries in the spring: those of the captain and left winger Siraba Dembélé, the left back Orlane Kanor and the right-back Aïssatou Kouyaté.
"Me, who am more of a basic perfectionist, I don't care how tonight," said Grace Zaadi, none of whose 10 goals were too many to win.
"It's the start of the competition. We will improve, I know we will gain momentum."
Adversity too: a next match awaits them on Tuesday against Spain, battered by Sweden on Sunday (31-24).
"I told myself that they would be very nervous in two days", imagines the other goalkeeper Cleopatra Darleux, entered after the break and also credited with seven stops.
"It's not a gift for us."
© 2021 AFP