May 24, 2022

Les Bleues defeat Sweden and qualify for the Tokyo Olympics final

After winning the silver medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016, the French handball players will play a new Olympic final on Sunday in Japan (8 hours). Les Bleues qualified by beating Sweden (29-27) on Friday in a hotly contested match.

In pool, the Swedes had held the French in check. The players of Olivier Krumbholz had counted up to five goals in advance and had seen the Scandinavians come back to snatch the draw (28-28) and plunge the Habs into doubt in the race for qualification.

Les Bleues warned

This time, the French knew it: the Swedes were going to be aggressive in defense, rough and would fight to the end. And it did not fail. The Blue were pushed to the fault, often sanctioned (8 times 2 minutes in the first period) and lived a difficult start to the match. But once again, the France team could count on its goalkeeper Amandine Leynaud not to be too far behind in the score. In attack, the solution very often came from the overpowering shots of Grâce Zaadi.

Led from the start of the match, the Blues returned to 7-7 in the 17th minute and took the score for the first time in the 23rd thanks to a superb counter-attack initiated by Allison Pineau and concluded by Chloé Valentini. At the break, the Blue only had a small goal ahead (15-14). And the Swedes have not abdicated.

In the French cage, Amandine Leynaud gave way to Cléopâtre Darleux, who released a very large number (7 stops). To take the advantage, the Blue have tightened the ranks in defense. “We close everything”, they hammered at each time out. They also managed to muzzle the pivot Linn Blohm, who did not attempt any shot and ended up sent off (3 times 2 minutes).

Cleopatra Darleux released a great number for her purpose. (F. Faugère / The Team)

In search of a first Olympic title

On the other hand, they suffered the flashes of Jamina Roberts, on whom they ended up passing in strict defense. Offensively, the Bleues failed on the 7-meter jets and ended the meeting with a blemish-free statistic: 0/4 in this exercise, while the Scandinavians had a clear round (6/6).

French and Swedish were neck and neck until the end of the meeting. But thanks to goals signed by Estelle Nze Minko, Pauletta Foppa and Grâce Zaadi, the Bleues were finally able to breathe, with a comfortable lead of four goals with 3 minutes remaining. The bench may have started to smile and ended up exulting.

In the final, in search of their first Olympic title, the Blue will find Norway, the only team still unbeaten at the Tokyo Olympics, or the Russians, who won gold in Rio. The other semi-final of the Games will take place at 2 p.m.