… is France. Many things have been accomplished by the French handball players this year. Before the current transfer frenzy, France had qualified a club team in the top 8 of Europe and presented an almost flawless national team in Brazil.
Last summer, Metz Handball made the headlines thanks to their Russian recruit, Ekaterina Andryushina. At that time, they were clearly taking an engagement towards the Champions League, that of starting off on equal ground with the rest of the European competitors. It was a safe bet, as the Russian link was a perfect match for Pineau and company. Youngsters Claudine Mendy and Marie Prudhomme surprised with their attacking skills, while, the defence was coordinated by Nina Kanto and sealed by Amandine Leynaud. A great adventure for them, a new market for European handball.
In Brazil, France showed character in both collective and individual play. Europe was gazing at the French wing players and dreaming of a left handed playmaker. A folly of will, technique and discipline transpired the performance of their back court players: Ayglon, Lacrabère, Pineau, Spincer, Signate, Mendy.
The story did not end in Brazil, as the audience focused on the sequel. The internal league is now aired online by the French Federation. In consequence, we were delighted to discover the close battle between Arvor29, Metz and Issy Paris.
Inevitably, the French players have received important financial offers during the winter break. So important that even the loyal Nina Kanto would consider an overseas contract. On one hand, Issy and Arvor will keep their players based on a baby-steps strategy whose goal is to win the Championship and reach the group stage of the CL. On the other hand, Metz looks like a successful factory right now, whose products are cut out for the most exclusive handball societies.
The conclusion of this season will be written in May, at the Olympic Qualification Tournament in Lyon.
The best official picture of the championship could be that of an important player, of a joyful moment, of the winner, of an individual skill or of a team effort. Make your choice!
1. Foto: Gabriel Inamine / Photo&Grafia. You can almost feel the ball in your hands. Nechita going for the shot while the pivot still has her hand in the air: all the tension of the moment in this picture.
2. Foto: Idário Café / Photo&Grafia. Linnea looks colossal in this, especially because of the Uruguayan girl’s efforts to stop her.
3. Foto: Cinara Piccolo / Photo&Grafia. Beautiful arch.
4. Foto: Gabriel Inamine / Photo&Grafia. Alexandra’s position here impresses me. It’s something I would like to get from pivots, who usually have very unaesthetic moves (strong and spectacular, but unaesthetic). This has it all!
5. Foto: Gabriel Inamine / Photo&Grafia. The goalkeeper’s position, the defending wall, the player shooting … all in an empty hall. Poetic!
6. Foto: Ricardo Bufolin / Photo&Grafia. Just another David and Goliath picture.
7. Foto: Gabriel Inamine / Photo&Grafia. This is a story of hands and arms. Count them if you can!
8. Foto: Ricardo Bufolin / Photo&Grafia. The ugliness of a foul can give a beautiful, intense, picture.
9. Foto: Cinara Piccolo / Photo&Grafia. My choice. Because she’s in the moment of maximum disequilibrium and I’m dying to find out what happened next. Plus, she looks like one of those discus throwers from Antiquity.
10. Foto: Gabriel Inamine / Photo&Grafia. One clear penalty. But of course, it’s her hand sticking to Kristina’s t-shirt that does the trick for the picture.
11. Foto: Cinara Piccolo / Photo&Grafia. This is the agony and the extasy. The tattoo screams victory.
12. Foto: Cinara Piccolo / Photo&Grafia. This is nice because of all the foreground – background thing. It kind of maps the joy in an interesting way.
13. Foto: Gabriel Inamine / Photo&Grafia. This shows a great parallelism between the court and the bench.
14. Foto: Ricardo Bufolin / Photo&Grafia. Ann Grete makes this beautiful, her expression wrinkles, her fists, everything is on the edge. It could be about sadness or happiness.
15. Foto: Gabriel Inamine / Photo&Grafia. This is a great portrait if we think about the character. But even if we don’t, there’s a nice sense of proportion to it.
This Romanian team fought its best. However, many teams are hard to match this year. Flagrancy was staring us in the face all along! Teams need to end cycles before starting new ones: it is shameful to dream about medals that a girl sitting at home and mending her wounds won as if they were rightfully ours. By ours, I mean us, a team of girls with no more than a Carpathian trophy played in this formula.
Honest would be to delineate everyone’s contribution to the team’s performance, not everyone’s injury in the name of salvation, or everyone’s age, or everyone’s “we did our best” smile. These girls are not victims of their supporters, but of the goal imposed on them by a foolish man. No one told them they didn’t go there to win the war, but to survive the drought.
What a shame to pretend we can choose to lay back and watch France play its show! What an arrogant idea to make claims against Sweden, Denmark or Croatia! Do not dream of Denmark! (more decimated than ever, but playing 4+2 defence and scoring with one valid left back and a 19y old right back in order to get results out of the worst case scenario) Do not challenge Sweden, whose Linnea Torstenson needed to learn a whole new shooting technique in order to attend this competition!
And do not speak of Croatia who has waited patiently for years and might now finally pay its dues to us! In 2010, at the European Championship, Andrea Penezic confessed after Romania-Russia (20:35): “Romania didn’t help us today. We wanted to be 3rd in the group, but today, the Romanian coach decided to rest his main players and so they lost.” Now, they are not playing for a 3rd place in the group, but for a spot among the world’s best. Moreover, they have a better team, mature and complete. Do not mock their years of patience by considering them the easiest opponent!