France take third EHF EURO title in style

MATCH REVIEW: With a 41:32 win against Denmark in the final, France won the EHF EURO 2014 and became European champions for the third time

Photo: Stephane Pillaud

With a 41:32 win in the final at the Jyske Bank Boxen in Herning on Sunday, France took their third EHF EURO title in history.

France were completely dominating from the start of the final. Their attacking and physical defence changed a lot between a 6:0 and a 4:2 formation, with which they had enjoyed certain success against Denmark at the Golden League on home court at the beginning of January, even though the Danes won 29:28 back then.

"I have to say that this was the best game and best performance in the final in history of French handball. We also knew Danish have a young team and expected that under pressure of the whole country they could struggle," French coach Claude Onesta said.

"The way France played today was exceptional. Perhaps it was really the best match France ever played. We entered the court focused, but we met a very strong and very settled French team," Danish coach Ulrik Wilbek said after his last match at the helm.

"They started very good and we were behind already after 5 to 6 minutes. I could see on my players that nervousness came and I had to take the first timeout. The last three quarters we played very good in attack, but the game was already over. The match was entertaining, but it was still not enough against the best team of the world," Wilbek added.

This time France had tremendous success with their defence, as the Danes had enormous problems creating scoring opportunities - and when they did, Thierry Omeyer stood in the way.

The 37-year-old French veteran definitely won the goalkeeper duel against his 12 years younger adversary Niklas Landin, and, for that matter, against Denmark's second goalkeeper Jannick Green as well.

"It is amazing. To win here in Denmark against the home team in such a great arena and in front of such a great audience, that is really fantastic," said French line player Igor Anic.

It took Danish goalkeeper Niklas Landin eight minutes and 45 seconds to get his first save, and Denmark changed goalkeepers twice in the first half and twice more in the second, still without much success.

An important reason for the poor Danish goalkeeper statistic was the fact that the Danish defence was close to being helpless against the enormous pressure France created whenever they were in attack.

This pressure was combined with a lot of elegant attacking play, and Danish man-to-man defence on one of the greatest French profiles in the first half, Nikola Karabatic, did not help a lot.

One could really only lean back and admire and enjoy 'Les Bleus'.

Danish memories of the World Championship 2013 final

For the Danish team and their fans, the game began more and more to resemble the final at the World Championship 2013, where the Danes were humiliated 19:35 by Spain in Barcelona.

And just like in that match the Danish attacking players started more and more to seek their own individual chances, which did not make things better for the hosts.

Therefore France enjoyed several 10 goal leads already before half time, but it has to be said for the 14,000 spectators - apart from the couple of hundred French in the arena - that they went on supporting Denmark.

Towards the end of the half, their enthusiasm was rewarded by a series of goals from Mikkel Hansen and Hans Lindberg which reduced the gap to seven goals at half-time, 23:16, as Omeyer's saving percentage dropped to 33.

France on cruise control

If the match was not decided at that point, it was soon in the second half, as France increased the gap to nine and eventually to ten goals again.

From then on, they played the rest of the match in 'cruise control', while the French fans made themselves more and more heard, and national coach Claude Onesta gave playing time to some of the players who had not been on the court earlier in the match.

In the French team there were many candidates for the title as best player.

At the end the award went to Daniel Narcisse, while Mikkel Hansen was awarded 'Best Player' for Denmark.

"I must say I am very disappointed. I hoped for a great game and I hoped for a great party afterwards. Those plans are broken now. When you play a great team like France you do not have many chances," Danish line player Jesper Noddesbo said.

written by Peter Bruun / ts