The Olympic champions against the world champions. This Sunday evening, in Trondheim, the meeting between France and Norway at the Women's Handball World Championship looked like a final. But if it wasn't the last match of this tournament, it was a Group 2 final, a decisive match for the quarter-finals. The stakes were clear: the victorious nation took first place in the group and set up a quarter-final against the Czech Republic. For the losers, it was the Netherlands on the menu.
And in this top-of-the-table match at their arch-rival, it was the French who won (24-23), ending a run of seven competitive matches without a win against Norway. Not dashing at the start of the competition, with a complicated first match against Angola, Les Bleues found their best level at the right time. On Tuesday, at 17:30 p.m., Olivier Krumbholz's girls will play for their place in the semi-finals against the Czech Republic.
Les Bleues' defence makes the difference
The match had started badly for the France women's team, who took more than five minutes to find the way to the net. On the other hand, the Norwegians started with their feet on the ground and took the first advantage (3-0). Little by little, at the cost of strong defences, saves from Laura Glauser and supersonic counter-attacks, Les Bleues came back into contact, before going ahead (8-7 in the 20th minute).
The match was pretty tough. Fouls, 7m throws and two-minute penalties followed one another. Both goalkeepers even had a ball in the face each. Les Bleues were not afraid of this physical challenge and imposed their style. But several stoppages to fix problems with the display on the scoreboard stopped the French machine in the final seconds of the first half and allowed the Norwegians to go into the locker room tied (12-12).
Read alsoWomen's World Handball Championship: Les Bleues face their Norwegian bête noire, "a big challenge"
Imperial Estelle Nze Minko
Unlike the first half, Les Bleues did not make the mistake of starting the second half timidly. Focused and authoritative in defence, the French recovered precious balls to finish without trembling in transition. In excellent form, Estelle Nze Minko continued to outrun the Norwegian defence, scoring a 5th goal already in the 40th minute to give the Tricolores a three-goal lead (18-15).
The Scandinavians, however, had not said their last word. Little by little, they came back into the game, thanks in particular to two consecutive saves from the goalkeepers, to which Laura Glauser responded brilliantly. The end of the match was suffocating. With seven minutes to go, the two teams were still tied (21-21).
In the end, it was Les Bleues' defence and Estelle Nze Minko's talent that made the difference. With a minute remaining, the player from Gyor, Hungary, won yet another one-on-one before crucifying the goalkeeper. At the other end of the pitch, Laura Glauser saved the last Norwegian attempt to seal the victory.
"We were patient, serious in attack, a good game," Olivier Krumbholz told BeIN Sports after the match. A great defence, a great goalkeeper, everything you need to have a great game and a great result. Radiant, Les Bleues enjoyed it for a long time with the public, even if they know that serious things have only just begun in this World Cup.