Our internationals' results
During the international break, several of our players turned out for the respective national teams. Some of them were looking to punch their ticket for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, while others continued their qualification campaign for the next European championships.
The France team of Nedim Remili, Vincent Gérard, Yann Genty and Luka Karabatic, had an eventful weekend! The task was always going to be hard for Les Bleus, as they looked to be one of the two sides of their group of four who would qualify for the 2021 Olympics in this mini-tournament at the Sud de France Arena of Montpellier, but they did it! First up, they saw off the challenge of Croatia on Friday night. Despite a complicated first half (30': 12-15), Guillaume Gille's men hit back in the second and clinched the win, thanks in no small part to Yann's nine saves. An important opening success (30-26) that put them in a strong position in this mini-tournament.
France 30 🇫🇷⚡🇭🇷 26 Croatie— Equipes de France de Handball (@FRAHandball) March 12, 2021
Belle réaction, et la victoire en poche 💪
RDV demain pour un match capital face à la Tunisie 🇹🇳 . C'est à 21h00 et c'est toujours sur TMC 👀#BleuetFier #VoirTokyo pic.twitter.com/mdO3p6Mnjj
The next day, France had an easier time of things against Tunisia, controlling the match from start to finish (40-29). All our players distinguished themselves in this game, with Vincent and Yann making twelve and two saves respectively while Nedim and Luka each fired a 3 from 4 in front of the opponents' goal. So it was with their destiny in their hands that Les Experts faced Portugal, who absolutely had to win to qualify. France could afford to lose - by no more than six goals - and still secure a ticket to Tokyo, so it was no great blow when, after a long mano à mano, Portugal won with a goal in the final seconds (28-29).
Winner of their first game a few days earlier, Euro 2022 qualifying against Slovakia (18-30), Spain played a friendly match against Argentina, at the Sports Palace in Madrid on Saturday. After a balanced first act (13-14), La Roja took the lead in the last 30 minutes (28-24). Our right-winger, Ferran Solé Sala, participated in this success by finding the net three times. Viran Morros and his partners thus punctuated a perfect week with two wins from as many games.
Shock losers in North Macedonia on Friday (33-29), Denmark had the opportunity to take revenge when they ran it back in Aalborg on Sunday. Few would have bet on the two-time World Champions to fall once again to Kiri Lazarov's side, and the Danes duly made their status felt as they won by a huge margin (37-21). The Scandinavians were well led by Henrik Toft Hansen's 5 from 5, but also by the four goals of Mikel Hansen. The Danes thus regain the lead of Group 7 at the expense of their opponents on the night.
Also beaten in the middle of the week, by Slovenia (32-39), Kamil Syprzak's Poland had the opportunity to regain the first place in Group 5. But to do so they had to get past the Netherlands of Luc Steins! Indeed, the duel of these two Parisians, which took place in Wroclaw on Sunday afternoon, went the way of our diminutive playmaker. The teams were neck-and-neck all match and the suspense was still high as the final minutes approached (55': 24-24). In the end it took a final exploit from Luc (7 from 8), who set up Kay Smits to score a buzzer-busting kung-fu, to see the Oranje clinch victory (26-27). This super match-winning play action was named Goal of the Week in EHF Euro 2022 qualifying action. The Poles lost again, despite Kamil's 2 from 2, and sit third in the group, while the Netherlands climb to second.
Finally, Latvia failed in their bid to beat Belarus (27-39). However, our right-back, Dainis Kristopans, played a great game and managed to score from all six of his shots. But Meshkov Brest's Mikita Vailupau, whom Les Rouge et Bleu faced in the EHF Champions League, shot 14 from 16 and was a massive part of his team's success. With three games in hand, Latvia are at the bottom of Group 6 with two points, but are only two points behind second place Norway (who have the same number of games).