Euro handball: Guillaume Gille guides the Blues to the top

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. “

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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. “

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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. “

participating management

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.


Many absences

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.



Guillaume Verdier, all terrain naval architect

Do not make Guillaume Verdier say what he did not say: engineers and architects, naval or land, hate approximation. So no, contrary to the comments of certain colleagues who have wronged him in New Zealand, he has never affirmed that the New Zealand monohull, of which he is one of the main authors, has exceeded the symbolic bar of 100 km / hour.

A boat without a keel

The performance of this spectacular boat without a keel with weighted foils will therefore remain confidential. On the other hand, the architect, engaged for ten years alongside the New Zealand team which defends its title obtained in 2017, does not hesitate to assert a much faster tomorrow for the sailing race. 130, 150 km / hour? There too, no figure without a basis of serious calculations, but all hopes are allowed.

“If we adopt the strategy of dolphins whose body shape changes with speed, we could make enormous progress”, explains the architect at the dawn of a quiet day, Sunday March 14, since the two scheduled America’s Cup regattas were canceled due to lack of… wind. For now, the two competitors are tied on points: three wins for the Kiwi challenge and three for the Italian boat Luna rossa (1).

New Zealand and French projects

In this New Zealand project, Guillaume Verdier is the“One of the components of the team, with a look at the whole”, but the architect is much more solitary when he sits down at his drawing board for his French inventions. After having designed the most efficient monohulls of the last Vendée Globe, including that of the 2017 winner, Armel Le Cléac’h, he signed the plans for the boats of Charlie Dalin and Thomas Rettant, respectively 2e and 6e of the 2021 edition.

“They were among the fastest boats, but they were unlucky and suffered from totally atypical weather and sea conditions which forced them to considerably reduce performance”, he explains, preferring to retain the positive side of this disappointment. “Nature remains the master of the game, fatigue, the weather and luck are even stronger than us and this is also true for the America’s Cup”, he continues.

Nature remains the patron

The Formula 1 of the America’s Cup, clad with sensors, computers and coaches on the ground, remain in fact subject to the human baton and its hazards. “With these machines, if the coxswain and the chief strategy officer on board miss the start or make a bad decision, it’s screwed up, continues the architect. We have the perfect means to build computerized and high-performance marine drones, but the day it will come to this, I will no longer be there. “

The organizers of the America’s Cup, the oldest sports competition in history, created in 1851, are keeping a close watch. They prohibited the GPS on board, the computer reading of the trajectory of the adversary during the regatta, the communications between the boat and its team ashore during the race. “We are not allowed to calculate the speed of our opponent in training either, continues Guillaume Verdier. You still have to look at the wind and the sky with your eyes and that’s fine. “