PARIS (Reuters) – France claimed a record-extending sixth world handball title by beating Norway 33-26 in a tense final on Sunday as their solid defence helped grind down their opponents.
Les Bleus were trailing early on but once the defence found their mark, Norway, who had never won a medal in a major handball championship, had no answer.
France now have six world titles, two Olympic golds and three European titles ahead of Russia/Soviet Union and Sweden in terms of major championship triumphs.
“We were inspired by the previous generations and we wanted the legend to continue,” said centre back Nikola Karabatic, who now has nine major titles to his name.
“I am so proud of this team. There are no words, there is so much emotion.”
Kentin Mahe, who scored five goals in six attempts, praised keeper Vincent Gerard’s performance: “It’s always easier when you can rely on such a keeper.”
France, coached by their ex-player Didier Dinart, have won eight of the 10 major championships since 2008, having only failed at the 2013 worlds where they were knocked out in the last eight and the 2016 Olympics where they lost in the final.Men’s Handball – France v Norway – 2017 Men’s World Championship, Final – AccorHotels Arena, Paris, France – 29/01/17 – France’s Nikola Karabatic and France’s head coach Didier Dinart react on the podium. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Norway got off to a solid start, opening up a 10-7 lead after 15 minutes thanks to Espen Lie Hansen’s fine performance, but it was France’s Nikola Karabatic who finished with the best total, netting six goals from nine attempts.
Les Bleus were struggling in attack, being perfectly handled by Norway’s rough defence.
But Gerard found his groove and Les Bleus were 18-17 ahead at halftime, ending up with 11 saves from 27 shots.
His Norwegian counterpart, Torbjorn Bergerud, managed 13 saves from 42 shots.
Les Blues continued to push forward after the break and moved five points clear (24-19) early in the second half as their solid defence made the difference.
France did not look back and went on to snatch their second world title at home after their 2001 triumph.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris and Ian Chadband)
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