France take critical points in semi-final race

EHF / Courtney Gahan

The journey is far from over but France took an important step on Monday night when they defeated Montenegro 36:27 in the last main round 3 match for group I. The win moved France to six points on the table, where they sit ahead of Iceland — the only other team remaining in the semi-final race. Now it will all come down to the two sides’ results on the last main round day in Budapest.

France will meet Denmark while Iceland will play Montenegro on Wednesday. If France win or draw, they will be through to the final weekend no matter Iceland’s result. If Iceland win and France lose, the Nordic team will follow Denmark to the semi-finals. If both France and Iceland are defeated, France will progress.

The loss to France means Montenegro’s semi-final chances are over, but they could very well record their best result in the history of the event.

Montenegro vs France 27:36 (12:16)

  • France secured a decisive win in the end, but it did not look certain at times in the first half, as Montenegro issued a strong challenge as they fought to keep their semi-final chance alive
  • Montenegro fell behind by three goals briefly after the 10-minute mark before fighting back to level, 11:11 in the 21st, thanks to a determined attacking performance and yet again great form from goalkeeper Nebojsa Simic in this period
  • both teams were dealt a blow in the opening 18 minutes, with two direct red cards issued in that period — first for Montenegro captain Vasko Sevaljevic in the 13th then for France keeper Vincent Gerard in the 18th
  • an unanswered run of four goals for France towards the end of the first half set up a clearer difference in their favour, and they tightened their grip on the game considerably from the start of the second period
  • Nikola Karabatic was named the Grundfos Player of the Match after scoring four goals and making three assists, while goalkeeper Wesley Pardin had a strong game stepping in earlier than his usual second-half start, with 10 saves at 36 per cent

France facing challenges

France finished with a big win against Montenegro, but no doubt we have witnessed some unusual problems in the record world champions and current Olympic title holders’ games here at the EHF EURO 2022. For example, their biggest ever defeat in the competition in the last round and an unexpectedly difficult first half on Monday night.

Is the absence of coach Guillaume Gille that decisive? Or perhaps the powerful inspiration brought by emotional Kentin Mahe in key moments? Or have other teams simply become more competitive, forcing France to work harder to show their strength?

France are very much in the semi-final race, but they need to find their best game as they prepare to meet Denmark in the game that could decide their fate on Wednesday.

I think we tried to put a good rhythm throughout the game, and maybe in the second half, Montenegro struggled physically. We tried to make the difference physically, and it seems like we managed to do it.

Erick Mathé
Coach, France
We lost the momentum in the first 30 minutes of the game. When we were at 10:10, we missed some crucial shots. We did not make the most of Nebojsa Simic’s good start and when you don’t use your chances against such a team, you are punished. They were physically better in the second half and that made the difference.

Zoran Roganovic
Coach, Montenegro

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