the golden generation of the French team at the meeting

Talented people are good at dating. Barring last-minute injuries, they will be six on France’s score sheet in the World Handball Championship final against Denmark on January 29 in Stockholm. Six players born in 1995-1997: Nedim Remili, Dika Mem, Ludovic Fabregas, Melvyn Richardson, Yanis Lenne and Romain Lagarde.

Very early on, the media gave them this nickname, which could be hard to bear. The history of sports is littered with promising youngsters who lost their way and never lived up to their expectations. But for this generation of handball players playing at Europe’s best clubs, pressure is more of a driver than a brake.

Also read: “Blaugranas” are at the service of the blues in the 2023 Handball World Cup

“Unlike my generation, who need time to rise to the top, to convince themselves that we can beat the best, they don’t have a complex.Eric Quintin, 1992 Barcelona Olympics medalist with Barjots, explains. Many were born in handball families. They grew up at a time when French handball dominated the planet. It is normal for them to win everything. »

In 2014, the latter – with the exception of Nedim Remili, who was born in July 1995 – won the title of European under-19 champion before winning the world crown in the same age category the following year. Between 2014 and 2021, coach of France’s youth teams, Eric Quintin saw them grow. What marked him? “Their maturity at all levels: emotional, technical, mental… During the competitions, they were calm, serious, determined to achieve their goals. » And the former international continues: “Their group was also very homogeneous, with an unusual density of talent. It is fair to say that the French system produces good handball players, but it takes exceptional players to win titles. »

“Keep the balance between young and old”

The crowning ceremony at the Tokyo Olympics in the summer of 2021 was the first step in consecrating this golden generation at the highest international level. “However, they were overseen by many elders: Nikola and Luka Karabatic, Kentin Mahe, Vincent Gérard, Michael Guigou, Luc Abalo…”compares Jérôme Fernandez, the best scorer in the history of the “Blues”, whose representatives have won all possible titles at the international level, and the left-back of the Experts.

With Guigou and Abalo retiring from the sport after the Olympic title, the French team has gotten a lot younger since the Japanese saga. A series of injuries added to packages linked to a health crisis has accelerated this process during Euro 2022.

Nikola Karabatic is the last survivor of the great era of experts. On the bench for Friday’s semi-final against Sweden, the 38-year-old Dean of Blues is still hamstrung by his left leg and remains uncertain for this Sunday’s final. Until recently, this warning worried the tricolor camp. Not anymore. The adjustment to the Swedes showed that the golden generation no longer needed their bullies to win titles.

“He’s starting to come of age, but he still has room to improve, Eric Quintin argues. We’re still stupidly losing balloons. “Some managers like Yanis Lenne, Melvyn Richardson or Dika Mem are in the process of stabilizing their game. They should fully express their potential at the Paris Games in 2024.”

Observation shared by interested parties. “Even if they don’t play together in the same club all year, the players of certain selections close their eyes. It’s not our job, we miss passes, we make avoidable mistakes., Dika Mem agrees. Nedim Remili, who has the ability to play in two positions, a midfielder and a right-back, is enough: “I’m still discovering the playmaker position. I still have a lot to learn. My goal is to be able to control the game from start to finish without stopping. »

Read the picture: Blues artist Nedim Remili

Ludovic Fabregas believes his generation has proven itself. “They say that 26-27 years is the age of maturity of an athletenotes. But it is important to maintain a balance between young and old. The match against Germany in the 1/4 finals showed how important experience is in big international events! »

“They’ll be more complete in a season or two.”

In any case, this world championship confirmed the stability of the hierarchy of the best nations. As in the 2021 World Cup and Euro 2022, France and Sweden on one side and Denmark and Spain on the other side met in the semi-finals. Other than a rising Egypt and a declining but still strong Norway, no other country is likely to join the gold race in the coming years. “France should take advantage of this, but we must not forget that the difference between the best countries is small and success is needed to win titles”Eric Quintin warns.

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Still, the room for improving players of the golden generation encourages optimism. “After one or two seasons, they will be more complete. France should dominate world handball again in 2024-2025, as Denmark and Spain, whose squads are older, will decline., Jérôme Fernandez predicts so.

A golden generation may hide another…

If the 2023 World Cup reveals the talent of football players born in 1995-1997, the fairies also looked at the cradle of the following. Among the under-19s, handball players of the 1998-1999 generation did better than their predecessors with a historic hat-trick: European Youth Olympic Festival 2015, Euro 2016 and World Cup 2017. Winger Dylan Nahi and back Elohim Prandi, adventure in Poland and Sweden, became part of this new wave. Born in December 1999, Thibaud Briet is on the radar. Nevertheless, this is the emergence of the Blues in the World Cup. He is doubtful for Sunday’s final against Denmark due to an injury to his right hand.

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