L’état de la nation: A statement win

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L’état de la nation: A statement win


March 31, 2024




By Sascha Staat

 

Handball is all about telling new stories, over and over again. And, you would think that the eternal fight between Metz and Brest in the French league doesn’t offer a new story very often. It sure does. For one because Brest won in Metz eight weeks ago, holding Emmanuel Mayonade‘s high-scoring goal machine to a season-low 22 goals. When Kristina Jørgensen missed a penalty shot after time had expired, the game was lost and the season in the French league had changed.

Most everyone in France thought that Metz would run away with the title, after big-name signings like Alina Grijseels and Anne Mette Hansen last summer. But both of them had their issues so far, with the German playmaker even leaving the French record champions after just one season. She‘ll be joining CSM Bucuresti, the opponent of Metz in the quarterfinals of the EHF Champions League. But, that‘s a totally different matter, at least for now.

Hatadou Sako and Kristina Jørgensen are both joining other clubs as well at the end of this season and combined with the home loss to Brest, it started to feel like something might not be clicking for the squad of head coach Mayonnade. For sure, Metz had great games during the EHF Champions League group stage, like the victory against Esbjerg in Nancy, but they also lost twice to Ikast. Still, Metz finished first in their group, avoiding the playoffs, which might be crucial in the upcoming months.

Considering all, Saturday‘s Coupe de France semifinal against Brest turned into a very important encounter. Another win for Brest could’ve put immense pressure on „Les Messines“, as a season without a trophy would be considered a failure for the team in yellow and blue. But, Metz stormed out of the locker room fast and furious and showed the handball world that they still are the number one team to beat in France as they quickly led by eight goals after ten minutes.

Although a hard  fighting Brest side cut the gap to four goals in the second half, it was Metz all the way. Almost all players were able to contribute. Emma Jacques, in the absence of Louise Burdgaard, scored seven goals, played solid defense and avoided technical mistakes up front. Alina Grijseels came from the bench late in the first half and scored two key goals, making sure that Brest wouldn‘t get closer before the break.

The last few minutes in a first half can be crucial and should not be underestimated. Call it a mini crunch time, if you want. Once Brest showed a different game face, Metz responded and had the right answer for most of the rest of the game. The 35:29 success wasn’t just a win, it was a statement. Even Emmanuel Mayonnade agreed to it in the post-game interview.  At the same time he emphasized that he expects to see the same aggressiveness of his girls in each and every match.

It’s his job to press the right buttons. Maybe the subpar-performance against Nantes earlier in the week was necessary to find even more motivation for a group of players who are supposed to win all the time, at least domestically.

Coach Mayonnade confirmed as well how desperately they want to make it to Budapest and compete for the EHF Champions League title. It’s up to him and put more trust in all of his players if he wants to be successful. Only the whole team can deliver more statement wins.

The success against Brest was a statement. Such wins don‘t come often nor do they come easy, but the timing was perfect. Once the club season resumes, Metz will be the team to beat. In all competitions.

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