Although everyone expected France to win a sixth World championship title on home soil, it wasn’t as easy as it look liked. At least when you believe left-wing Kentin Mahé, who has grown into a more important role compared to the tournament in Qatar two years ago. When I talked to him about the key reasons for finishing first once again, he praised team spirit and their focus on the essentials. Guillaume Gille did the same. He also thanked the team behind the team and the great support France received throughout the tournament.
“It’s never easy to win a World championship, we worked very hard for it. We ran a lot against Norway so the players would get tired. Then he we had to push in the second half, got some saves from our goalkeeper and that made things a lot easier,” said Mahé when talking about the final . It was quite amazing to see, and a bit unexpected, that the French team was able to shift gears after the break, before cruising to victory.
I was impressed, especially since France was the odds-on favorite to capture a sixth title. But Mahé didn’t agree with “Les Experts” having to win the title, delivering an ironic answer.
“Oh, we had to? I didn’t know what. But it was our strength that we focused on. Aiming at our goals and not taking real notice of what happened outside the locker room,” he commented. Sorry, Kentin, I don’t believe a word. Social media is present in every locker room these days, not a chance to hide.
“I know we were playing at home and we were the defending champion, but you can’t say it’s a given or even a must that we had to win the title. We accomplished something special and I’m very proud of the team,” he added. Fair enough, as I don’t want to take away anything from your victory, don’t worry. Still I believe, considering all circumstances, it’s no surprise that the French team won the tournament, not at all.
While Mahé recorded his second world cup trophy it was the third one for Guillaume Gille, a two-time champion as a player, and now part of the coaching staff. Although Didier Dinart was in the spotlight for most of the time, Gille played a very important role, because his approach combined with Dinart’s philosophy of how to play handball, was very different from the previous one. Claude Onesta, relied more heavily on his aging stars like Thierry Omeyer, Daniel Narcisse and Nikola Karabatic.
“I think it’s a big plus that we have a team with plenty of good players. And these players bring different qualities to the table. We were able to use such qualities in different formations. It was our idea from the beginning to save energy of some players. We also wanted to give more responsibility to our younger players,” said Gille. Well, the coaching staff couldn’t have done a better job.
“But even with the best philosophy, you still have to execute on the court. We performed on a very high level throughout the whole tournament. It gives me a lot of satisfaction and it’s just fantastic what we have experienced during the event,” the former playmaker added. He did not forget to praise all the fans that made France 2017 an unforgettable event.
“We are privileged to be part of such an experience. The fans helped us a lot – we have to be very grateful. I could have never dreamed of anything close to this,” said Gille.
Statements like this only show that World Cup 2017 was a unique competition, for more than one reason. It marked the first time ever that both, the European and Olympic champion, didn’t even make it to the quarterfinals at a World championship. But, you can’t blame the French team that the other “big boys” didn’t play their part. France, in turn, did a much better job taking caring of their main issues compared to previous tournaments. They have plenty of reasons to be proud of their accomplishment.