Handball: History beckons for France at the Copper Box

 

France will have history in their sights when they play Sweden tomorrow as they attempt to become the first team to defend the men's handball Olympic title.

Les Bleus, who are also reigning world champions, topped the podium in Beijing four years ago and assured themselves of at least a silver medal in London when they edged past Croatia 25-22 in yesterday's semi-final at the Basketball Arena.

But they will be favourites to earn gold again against the Scandinavians, who were not expected to advance much further than the quarter-finals, having been a team in transition.

Claude Onesta's French side also have something to prove after a woeful campaign at January's European Championship in Serbia, where they failed to reach the semi-finals, and right-back Jerome Fernandez sees no reason why they cannot create history.

"We want to win the gold medal because it's very important for us," Fernandez said. "We had an accident in Serbia and we want to come back and prove we are the best.

"We have had six or seven weeks of preparation in the build-up to London and we needed that. We needed to get fresh because our players have played a lot of games for their clubs.

"It has never been done before but one day the statistics have to change so I think that it can be us to win two gold medals in back-to-back Olympics. Why not?

"We have 10 players at this Olympics who are maybe better than in 2008. I think we have a very good team now, but it's very different to 2008.

"There are no favourites. Both teams are in the final because they have been the best team at the tournament."

Pivot William Accambray admits his side did not expect to be facing Sweden at this stage in the competition and is confident of victory.

"We didn't assume that we would be playing them at this point in the competition but they are a good team, they play well, so we will have to analyse the video to see how we will play against them," Accambray said.

"We hope that Sweden will play just like Croatia did and we are happy with having Sweden in the final, but we know we have not reached the end yet and we still have to win."

PA

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