At the head of the women's France team from 1998 to 2013, Olivier Krumbholz (60) was recalled by the federation in 2016 after a three-year break with Alain Portes. Double World Champion (2003 and 2017) and Olympic Vice-Champion (2016), Lorrain leads the Bleues for the second time at home after the 2007 World Cup (5th place).
What is your goal in this Euro?
Olivier Krumbholz We are aiming for the title. We are world champion and we are at home. Not to aim for the title would mean that we have regressed, that it is a disadvantage to play at home. Since I do not think either, we are aiming for gold.
How do you handle the extra pressure of playing in front of the French audience waiting for a gold medal?
Olivier Krumbholz We try to preserve the group, we emphasize the advantage of playing at home. The girls are very happy to play at home. They want to prove something. For them, it's a form of consecration of their career.
What kind of match do you expect against Montenegro, your last opponent in Group B?
Olivier Krumbholz It's a very difficult team to play, more complete than Slovenia. We won against them at the World Cup last year, but they beat us at the Olympics in 2012. Montenegro has strengthened with both wings, but also with the arrival of two new coaches. It will be a difficult match.
Defense is the strong point of the Blue. It is said that it is difficult to read. That is to say ?
Olivier Krumbholz On a collective sports field, you are there to inform your partners and to counter-inform your opponents. Defense is first attacking the attack! But it's also being up when your opponent thinks you're going to be down and down when he expects you to be up. To attack is difficult. You have to handle the ball and when taking information about what the defense is doing is very disturbing to the attackers. It's difficult to attack a very mobile and enterprising defense, which is not just goal protection. All the difficulty for us is to have a stable device, where there are rules, but where, too, there are many individual initiatives. In general, opponents know that, whatever happens, France will have a defense that will cause them problems.
A Euro is a very dense competition, many games, little rest and strong opponents from the preliminary round. How do you manage these settings?
Olivier Krumbholz We are very demanding in the preparation. A Euro is a sprint. There is no break for three-four days to blow like a World Cup. The difficulty is to reach the last square but also to get there with enough physical and mental energy to win. So you have to rotate the workforce, but think about how you do it. Permanent rotations are difficult for players because they sometimes need time to settle. We are trying to create pairs and associations that last at least twenty minutes. The French handball is rich enough to be able to rely on more than sixteen players even if using youth represents a risk taking. But we showed that we knew how to do, especially last year on the World Cup.
For two years, you have called on a mental trainer, Richard Ouvrard. What does it bring to the Blue ones?
Olivier Krumbholz We decided to work with Richard because we think that mental preparation is one of the keys to success. I talk a lot with Richard. Afterwards, he chooses to do individual work with the players or group sessions when necessary. Young people are the ones who need help the most. They have great potential and a role to play, but they are not yet emotionally stabilized. Throughout the games, Richard's role intensifies, it is especially in the last days of a competition that his help helps us to be more efficient.
This Euro must allow the women's handball to develop the practice and its media coverage …
Olivier Krumbholz Female handball already exists in France, it is well established and it is very powerful. It will become even more important if we make a big result. But I especially believe that the federation must question how it can take advantage of the exceptional career of the teams of France. Moreover, in France and other countries, the financial redistribution of TV rights and sponsors should be less unfair. I think, unfortunately, there are overpriced sports with overpaid athletes while other disciplines deserve a lot more.
The organization of this Euro is also part of the federal policy of equality between girls and boys …
Olivier Krumbholz Since the last elections, women have dominated the federation's board of directors. We managed to bring out leaders who invest a lot. The federation has also adopted parity in terms of bonuses for teams, I do not think that all Olympic federations have the same policy. This Euro must give momentum to the parity and development of women's sport, that's why we hope to be extremely followed by women during this competition.