Handball: France look to turn Olympic misery into world gold
AFP, , Sunday 29 Jan 2017


France will look to bury the misery of their Olympic Games heartbreak when they chase a sixth world championship title against first-time finalists Norway on Sunday.

Five months after being stunned by Denmark in the gold medal match in Rio, the French, led by one of the sport's superstars in Nikola Karabatic, have a golden opportunity to seal the title.

But that chastening loss to the Danes means that France, world champions in 1995, 2001, 2009, 2011 and 2015, will not be under-estimating Norway.

"I’m always a little apprehensive before the important games. In Rio, we collapsed against Denmark and I saw a face of the French team that I didn’t know," said France right-back Valentin Porte.

"I thought maybe it could happen again. So I'm not as calm as I was before the games in the past. Since that final, our opponents believe in their chances. So that's why I'm going to prepare this final with humility and seriousness."

France beat Norway 31-28 in the preliminary round but the Scandinavians, who failed to reach the Olympics, know that they have the measure of their hosts having defeated them 29-24 at the European championships in Poland in 2016.

Norway reached the final for the first time on Friday with a dramatic 28-25 extra-time victory over Croatia.

"It's my 10th championship and at last we have achieved our main goal of winning a medal. It's incredible," said Norway pivot Bjarte Myrhol.

"We never stopped believing, we were on the attack all the time. We always said our time would come and that this is our year.

France were world champions on home ground in 2001 and two of that team -- 40-year-old Thierry Omeyer and Daniel Narcisse, 37, are still in the squad 16 years later.

Norway, for their part, boast one of handball's hottest prospects in 21-year-old Sander Sagosen, his team's leading strategist.

Sagosen has hit 40 goals in eight games at the tournament to make him the second-best scorer in the tournament. He has also played 41 crucial passes to his teammates.

Goalkeeper Torbjorn Bergerud will also be crucial in Sunday's final.

The 22-year-old was named man of the match in Friday's semi-final after pulling off a fine save from a penalty taken by Croatia's Zlatko Horvat in the last minute of normal time.

That kept the score at 22-22, sending the tie into two five-minute periods of extra-time.

Croatia, world champions in 2003, led 24-22 in the extra period but the faster style of Norway eventually paid dividends.

The Croatian team were facing Slovenia, beaten 31-25 by France in their semi-final, in the bronze medal play-off later Saturday.

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