The gifted are well at the rendezvous. Barring last-minute injuries, they will be six on the France team’s score sheet for the final of the handball world championship against Denmark on Sunday January 29 in Stockholm. Six players born between 1995 and 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 have been difficult to bear. The history of sport is full of promising young people who got lost along the way and never realized the hopes placed in them. But, for this generation of handball players who play in the best European clubs, the pressure is more of a driver than a brake.
“Unlike my generation, who needed time to get to the top, to convince themselves that we could beat the best, they have no complexexplains Eric Quintin, medalist at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 with the Barjots. Many were born into families of handball players. They grew up at a time when French handball dominated the planet. For them, it is normal to win everything. »
In 2014, the latter – with the exception of Nedim Remili, born in July 1995 – won the title of European champion under 19, before winning the world crown the following year in the same age category. Coach of the young French teams between 2014 and 2021, Eric Quintin has seen them grow. What marked him? “Their maturity on all levels: emotional, technical, mental… During competitions, they were calm, rigorous, determined to achieve their goals. » And the former international to continue: “Their group was also very homogeneous, with an extraordinary density of talents. It is fair to say that the French system produces good handball players, but winning titles requires exceptional players. »
“Keep a balance between young and old”
The coronation at the Tokyo Olympics in the summer of 2021 was the first step in the consecration of this golden generation at the highest international level. “But they were supervised by many elders: Nikola and Luka Karabatic, Kentin Mahé, Vincent Gérard, Michaël Guigou, Luc Abalo…”relativizes Jérôme Fernandez, top scorer in the history of the Blues and left-back of the Experts – whose representatives have won all possible titles at international level.
Guigou and Abalo having retired from sport after the Olympic title, the French team has been considerably rejuvenated since the Japanese epic. A cascade of injuries, which added to the packages linked to the health crisis, further accelerated this process during Euro 2022.
The last survivor of the great era of Experts is Nikola Karabatic. On the bench on Friday, during the semi-final against Sweden, the dean of the Blues, 38, is still embarrassed by his left foot and he remains uncertain for this Sunday’s final. Until recently, this alert would have worried the tricolor camp. Not anymore. The correction administered to the Swedes has shown that the golden generation no longer needs its grumblers to win titles.
“She is starting to reach full maturity, but she still has room for improvement, argues Eric Quintin. We still lose balloons stupidly. Like Yanis Lenne, Melvyn Richardson or Dika Mem, some executives are in the process of stabilizing their game. They should express their full potential at the Paris Games in 2024.”
An observation shared by those concerned. “Even if they don’t play together in a club all year, the players of certain selections find themselves with their eyes closed. It’s not our case, we miss passes, we make avoidable mistakes., agrees Dika Mem. Nedim Remili, who has the particularity of playing in two positions, half-center and right-back, abounds: “I am still discovering the position of playmaker. I still have a lot to learn. My goal is to be able to manage a match from start to finish, without downtime. »
Ludovic Fabregas, he believes that his generation is asserting itself. “They say that 26-27 is the age of maturity for an athletehe notes. But it is important to maintain a balance between young and old. The match against Germany in the quarter-finals showed how crucial experience is in major international events! »
“In one or two seasons, they will be even more complete”
This world championship has, in any case, confirmed the stability of the hierarchy of the best nations. As during the 2021 World Cup and Euro 2022, the semi-finals opposed France and Sweden on one side, Denmark and Spain on the other. Apart from Egypt, on an upward momentum, and Norway, in decline but still solid, no other country seems able to join the fight for gold in the coming years. “France should benefit from it, but we must not forget that the gap between the best nations is tiny and that success is needed to win titles”warns Eric Quintin.
Every day new crossword puzzles, Sudoku and found words.
Still, the room for improvement of the players of the golden generation encourages optimism. “In one to two seasons, they will be even more complete. As Denmark and Spain, whose squads are older, will decline, France should once again dominate world handball by 2024-2025., thus predicts Jérôme Fernandez.
A golden generation can hide another…
If the 2023 World Cup highlights the talent of players born between 1995 and 1997, the fairies have also looked into the cradle of the following. Among the under-19s, the handball players of the 1998-1999 generation even 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 the rear Elohim Prandi, adventure in Poland and Sweden, have been part of this new wave. Thibaud Briet, born in December 1999, he went under the radar. It is nonetheless the revelation of the Blues in this world championship. Injured in the right hand, he is doubtful for Sunday’s final against Denmark.
Source: Le Monde