A new title for France. The French women's handball team became world champions for the third time after 2003 and 2017 by beating Norway, 31-28, on Sunday 17 December, in the final in Herning, Denmark.

"It's unbelievable what's happening, we're proud of ourselves, we gave everything, it's really magical, we defended incredibly, we had incredible goalkeepers, with that we can just win and it's so good," centre-half Léna Grandveau told beIN Sports. It was a bit unexpected for me, I arrived last year as a youngster, everything is new to me. The elders helped us with everything, that's why I performed, thank you to the elders!"

Not a single match lost in 2023

Twenty years after their first world title, six years after their second and a year and a half after the Olympic title won in Tokyo, Les Bleues are installing France a little more at the top of handball, where until now the Norwegians were enthroned.

Two-time European champions and reigning world champions, the Scandinavians were unable to break the French women's dreams of glory this time, as they had done in the final of Euro-2020 (22-20), the World Cup-2021 (29-22) and in the semi-finals of Euro-2022 (28-20).

Two victories in a week against the band of Stine Oftedal, after the one acquired last Sunday at the conclusion of the main round (24-23), in Trondheim in front of the Norwegian public: this team of France vintage 2023, which has not lost a single match of the year, was untouchable.

She arrived in Scandinavia three weeks ago with the sole objective of measuring her progress before the big challenge of defending the Olympic title in Paris next year.

She also wanted to open up the work of the attacking game, which failed at the Euros last year against the Norwegians who had highlighted a traditional weak point of Les Bleues, who left Slovenia full of bitterness. A year later, Ljubljana's tears have dried and the French have added another string to their bow. As well as a title to their collection.

A fierce and organized defense

The French women's handball team still relies on a fierce and organised defence, despite the absence of its boss for ten years, Béatrice Edwige, who has been sidelined to make way for youth.

This weapon ended up wearing down the Norwegians of Henny Reistad (5/6) during a second period much less removed than the first (20-17 at half-time), where France held firm after feeling the breath of Katrine Lunde and her teammates return in its neck (26-25, 49th).

She could also have avoided a cold sweat at the end of the match if Alicia Toublanc had finished her counterattack in the net and not on the bar with six minutes to go on a +5 ball (29-25).

Les Bleues seem to be even more effective on counter-attacks, their other ten-year guarantee. Like the one finished by captain Estelle Nze Minko, after intercepting the ball herself, to create a first lead at the end of the first period (17-14, 24′). And they improved on set pieces, like this textbook move to shift Chloé Valentini on her left wing (24-21, 37′).

A Talented and Promising Generation

This third title is also that of a very homogeneous group, where almost every player has contributed his or her contribution. Laura Glauser had shone for the past week in goal? On Sunday, the torch was taken up by Hatadou Sako (4 saves on 16 shots including a penalty), who came on in the second half and closed the shop by deflecting a shot from Skogrand with two minutes to go.

Sarah Bouktit, 21 years old, took over perfectly in the penalty shootout exercise (2/3), while Léna Grandveau (5/6), a year younger, delivered a sparkling end to the match. Trained as a centre-half, the Nantes native replaced Laura Flippes, who received a knock in the first half, at right-back despite being right-footed - and therefore has a lower shooting angle.

With the carefree look of a 20-year-old, Grandveau scored Les Bleues' last four goals in a red Herning "Boxen" dressed in the colours of Denmark and neighbouring Norway. On the pitch on which the French rushed at the final whistle to celebrate a third world title that shines with a particular brilliance twenty years after the first and seven months before the Paris Olympic Games.

With AFP

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