A short defeat before flying to the European Championships. The French handball team lost a small goal (35-34) against Germany, Sunday January 9 in Wetzlar, during their only preparation match for the Euro, which takes place in Hungary and Slovakia from January 13 to 30.
If the second half can leave regrets to Nikola Karabatic and his teammates, the setback did not shake the serenity of coach Guillaume Gille. “We are here to continue working and making sure we are ready to start the Euro”, estimated the coach, realistic but confident a few days before their entry into competition, Thursday, January 13, against Croatia.
A blue at the head of the Blues
Coach of the Blues for barely two years, the former center-half with 308 selections is now unanimous among his players. A dazzling but also surprising grip: “Gino” had never found himself at the head of a very high level team before taking the reins of the France team.
“Guillaume’s choice was not the most obvious, remembers Philippe Bana, president of the French Handball Federation. He had very little experience while others clamored for a tactician to lead the team. The players themselves wondered about this choice. “
→ FACTS. Tokyo Olympics: the French handball team achieves a historic Olympic treble
It took him well: just a few months after his arrival on the bench, Guillaume Gille was already leading the Blues to the top of world handball. Despite a preparation very thwarted by the health crisis, the Drômois and his men won a new Olympic title by triumphing over their Danish rivals on Japanese soil. The third, after the successes of 2008 and 2012. In those years, “Gino” was on the floor, ball in hand and blue jersey on his back.
Big brother role
The task was difficult, however. After the Euro 2020 fiasco – elimination of France in the first round to everyone’s surprise – the team had to be completely rebuilt. “The France team had lost its way, reminds Philippe Bana. The group was in small pieces. “ Hence the idea of calling on Guillaume Gille, then assistant to Didier Dinart: “More than a tactician, the France team needed a big brother, someone who embodied the spirit and values of a France team which had dominated its sport for several years. “
→ READ. Handball World Cup 2021: the French lose in the final against Norway
Mario Cavalli knows Guillaume Gille well for having coached him upon his arrival in Chambéry in 1994. He is not surprised to see him shine in his new costume: “Guillaume has always been a unifier. He was close to the staff and passed instructions to the players. “ An ability to supervise that Philippe Bana had also detected very early on in the player: “When I first met him before the Sydney Games in 2000, I immediately noticed that he was showing a height of vision that was unmatched by the other players. “
An altruistic player who listens to his teammates, Guillaume Gille continues to make the collective a cardinal value. These principles are embodied in a form of participatory management, inherited, in part, from his predecessor Claude Onesta. The coach has thus established “game advice”, limited meetings with senior players to collectively determine the team’s game plan. He also relies on the authority of elders, such as Nikola Karabatic, with whom he wrote the most beautiful pages of French handball.
As idyllic as his debut at the head of the Blues may be, Guillaume Gille now faces a major challenge: winning the Euro and imitating the “Experts”, the only French team to have won a major title directly after the conquest. Olympic laurels. “In handball, winning the Euro is even harder than winning the Olympics given the density of the participating teams”, observes Mario Cavalli.
Proof that sporting performances still serve as the ultimate justice of the peace, Didier Dinart did not survive the rout of 2020, despite a world champion title in 2017 and two bronze medals obtained at the European and European Championships. world the following two years. “At this level, it is the results that validate the coach’s method”, warns Mario Cavalli. Double European champion as a player in 2006 and 2010, Guillaume Gille knows the path to follow.
Opposed to Croatia, Serbia and Ukraine in Group C, the France team is entering the competition despite the absence of some of its best elements. The captains Nedim Remili and Luka Karabatic are both forfeited due to injury. Just like left-back Timothey N’Guessan.
Elohim Prandi is still recovering after being the victim of a knife attack on New Year’s Eve. Last annoyance for Guillaume Gille, the positive test of Captain Valentin Porte. “We have a good depth of workforce, which we want to make full use of”, however reassured the coach.