In the upcoming weeks, www.handball19.com, the official website of the Men’s Handball World Championship 2019 in Denmark and Germany, will present the profiles of the 24 participants. Of course, this series starts with the defending World Champion France.
When one big name after the other announced to stop their international career, many experts had expected a decrease of success for the French men’s handball team, which dominates an era since 2006. It started with the Gilles brothers, followed by Didier Dinart or last year Thierry Omeyer and Daniel Narcisse, one by one stopped playing for the national team.
But year by year, France constantly produces young successors for those big names. Thanks to their high performance youth centres all over the country, connected to the big clubs, the youth programme currently tops the rest of the world by a series of World and European titles.
Players such as Ludovic Fabregas, who will leave from Montpellier to join big FC Barcelona next season, or Dika Mem and Timothy N’Guessan, who already play for the Catalans, are classes of their own in their respective age. Besides, Melvyn Richardson or young goalkeeper Julien Meyer have already made their first steps in the national team, in which young right back Nedim Remili (23) is already a constant key player.
Still, Nikola Karabatic - the only male player to become IHF World Player of the Year three times - is the leader of the pack, together with experienced Michael Guigou or Vincent Gerard, but the young generation is ready to take over the responsibility now.
After the end of the highly successful era of Claude Onesta as French national team coach (three times World Champions, twice Olympic champions, three times European champions) former defence boss Didier Dinart took over, assisted by former playmaker Guillaume Gille. Right in their first major tournament in this position, they made a whole nation happy, when becoming World Champions on home ground in 2017, which besides the trophy granted them the first ticket for the 2019 World Championship in Denmark and Germany.
Being six times World Champions, including four trophies at the last five World Championships, makes France (nicknamed Les Experts) the big favourite for 2019 again. At the 2018 European Championship, Karabatic and Co, missed their fourth continental title quite unlucky: The only defeat in eight matches at Croatia occurred in the semi-final against Spain - after losing this match, France beat Denmark in the bronze medal match.
Most of the French top stars play for the Champions League semi-finalists Paris Saint-Germain or Montpellier, like the Karabatic brothers, Remili (all PSG) or new goalkeeper Vincent Gerrard, Valentin Porte or Richardson (all MHB).
France Competition records:
World championship campaigns: 1954: 6, 1961: 8, 1970: 12, 1990: 9, 1993: SILVER, 1995: GOLD, 1997: BRONZE, 1999: 6, 2001: GOLD, 2003: BRONZE, 2005: BRONZE, 2007: 4, 2009: GOLD, 2011: GOLD, 2013: 6, 2015: GOLD, 2017: GOLD
Olympic campaigns: 1992: BRONZE, 1996: 4, 2000: 6, 2004: 5, 2008: GOLD, 2012: GOLD, 2016: SILVER
European championship campaigns: 1994: 6, 1996: 7, 1998: 7, 2000: 4, 2002: 6, 2004: 6, 2006: GOLD, 2008: BRONZE, 2010: GOLD, 2012: 11, 2014: GOLD, 2016: 5, 2018: BRONZE
Qualification for Denmark/Germany 2019: defending World Champions
Coach: Didier Dinart
Key players: Nikola Karabatic, Nedim Remili