Nature hates emptiness. Handball is no exception to the rule. Orphaned by his star, Nikola Karabatic, injured in the foot, the French team must learn to manage without his playmaker for the World Handball Championship in Germany (see box). A first since the 2003 World Cup in Portugal where the young half-center did not play a match. But, despite the absence of their emblematic player, crowned three times best handball player in the world (2007, 2014 and 2016), the Blues want to maintain their hegemony in this competition they start this Friday in Berlin against Brazil. With a rich pool, the coach Didier Dinart has even entrusted his flock mission to bring back a third consecutive world title, a feat never achieved in handball.
For several years now, the France team has seen its glorious seniors retire. At 34, Nikola Karabatic is inevitably closer to this deadline. After the departures of Thierry Omeyer and Daniel Narcisse, in 2017, there are only three other old, the wingers Luc Abalo and Michael Guigou and the pivot and captain Cédric Sorhaindo. But this time, it is about the master playing the Blues, the one who imposes on the field and outside the locker room. “Without him, it's harder, but we have a collective to overcome his absence, we are not far from having one of the finest workforce that we have ever had in terms of talents and qualities to all positions. We really have a shot to play, “said right-winger Valentin Porte (28), who plays in Montpellier.
“We will not hesitate to exchange a little more between us”
Adrien Dipanda has the same confidence: “It's normal for people to ask questions because he's the greatest player in history. But the strength of this team is to adapt to all situations. We are ready. Still, behind these words, it will be necessary to set the acts to music and not to tremble in the decisive moments. “Everyone must go up one level, it will not hesitate to exchange a little more between us, says the young pivot Ludovic Fabregas (22 years). We all have major roles in our clubs today, which gives us the confidence to speak in complicated times. “
The policy of perpetual reconstruction, which sees arriving at each tournament new heads, explains the serenity displayed. “In the last official competitions, Niko had time off so that he could regenerate and allow others to show what they could do and grow. We are not fully prepared, but we have weapons to show with players who are hungry and want to show their talents, “says Guillaume Gille, the assistant coach. For this World Cup, three players have been selected. Double world champion (2015 and 2017), Kentin Mahé (27) offers an interesting versatility by being able to play also left winger. Less accustomed to playing in the blue jersey, Nicolas Claire (31) has emerged as an important part of the Nantes team, with which he reached the final of the last Champions League. Finally, there is Dika Mem (21 years), full of talent. Recruited in 2016 by FC Barcelona, he represents the future.
But beware of overconfidence, we must not forget, however, that the enemy nations are also making progress. Could the absence of Nikola Karabatic not act as a click? In other words, the opponents of the Blues will they lose their complexes against this young team of France? Answer in the coming days.