With two Olympic gold medals, three European championship titles and six world championship titles, the men’s French handball team has the best track record in the world. Olympic Handball Followers from all over the world can book Olympic Handball tickets online.
Nicknamed “les experts”, they reached the sport’s summit by winning the Olympic gold medal in Beijing on 24 august 2008, and have remained there ever since. Their sights are currently set on qualifying for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, as they continue down the path to victory.
The road was long, but France became the best handball team in the world, winning the largest ever a number of titles through a series of unprecedented achievements. The team that scaled to the peak of the world’s rankings didn’t even take part in the Olympic Games from the sport’s introduction onto the Olympic program, at Munich 1972, up to, and including, Seoul 1988.
MANY MONIKERS REFLECT TEAM’S ROAD TO SUCCESS
France finally qualified for the Olympic Games in Barcelona 1992, where their journey and joie de vivre drew particular attention.
Claude Onesta came on board as their new coach. Under him, France became the best in the world. They were a consistent presence atop podiums in both the World and European Championships, but an Olympic medal remained elusive; they placed sixth at the Olympic 2020 Games Sydney 2000 and then suffered defeat to Russia in the quarter-finals at Athens 2004, where Richardson was the French delegation’s flag bearer.
“Les Bleus” focused on a new generation of talented players, including goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer and players Nikola Karabatic, Daniel Narcisse, Luc Abalo, Didier Dinart, Olivier Girault, Mikael Guigou, Jérôme Fernandez, Guillaume Gille, and Bertrand Gille, among others. They won the European Championship for the first time in Switzerland in 2006.
“LES EXPERTS” TRAMPLE EVERYONE IN THEIR PATH
At the Olympic Games Beijing 2008, captain Girault led his team-mates down a glorious path to victory. Back at the Olympic Village, the team’s events were the common link drawing the entire French delegation together; the handballers played throughout the Games’ entire duration, while other athletes mostly competed in one-day competitions.
“We reached the highest level of handball in the world. It’s magic. We feel like we did our duty. For me, personally, this was the only title I hadn’t won. It’s an amazing victory. The team played spectacularly during the Games. We had the match in the bag early on because we took them seriously. We won easily,” observed Dinar.
“I’m happy. I relish it because there had been previous disappointments, such as in Sydney or Athens. It is the victory of sacrifice. The team deserved the title,” added Girault. With their first Olympic gold medal came a new nickname, which is still in effect 11 years later: “Les Experts”.
This continued with their fourth World Championship win, at the 2011 finals in Sweden, where they beat Denmark. After a setback in January 2012 at the European Championship in Serbia, where they were eliminated in the second round, they bounced back eight months later, becoming the first handball team to retain an Olympic title.
Once again, they held all the major titles at once. At the Olympic Games Rio 2016, “Les Experts” reached the final for the third time in a row, and were strong favorites against Denmark. Led by a fired-up Mikkel Hansen, however, the Danes proved insurmountable and won the match 28-26.
A SIXTH WORLD TITLE ON THE ROAD TO TOKYO 2020
Didier Dinart replaced Claude Onesta as the coach of the French team, leading “Les Experts” to an unprecedented sixth World Championship in 2017 in Qatar.
During the period from 2001 to 2017, Thierry Omeyer — who was named the best goalkeeper of all time by the International Handball Federation (IHF) — won 10 gold medals (European, world, Olympic), while Nikola Karabatic, Michaël Guigou, Daniel Narcisse and Jérome Fernandez claimed nine. “Les Experts” became the best squad in the history of world handball.
What now? France was bronze medalists at the 2018 European Championship, but at the 2019 World Championship, held in January in Germany and Denmark, they missed out on directly qualifying for the Olympic 2020 Games in Tokyo. That honor went to Denmark, who won the World Championship for the very first time after 22 attempts.
The 2020 European Championship winner will also qualify for the Olympic Games. If Denmark wins, the Olympic spot will go to the losing finalists. If France does not win the 2020 European Championship, their third-place win at the 2019 World Championship will make them eligible to take part in one of three Olympic qualifying tournaments scheduled for April 2020, where the two best teams will book their spot at the Tokyo Games.
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