World Championship Preview: Only 1 Big Question: Will France make it four in a row?

France has been on a roll.  Since winning the 2008 Olympics in Beijing they’ve added a World Championship in 2009 and a European Championship in 2010.  When a team dominates a sport as  France has for the past couple of years, the only real question is whether there’s any reason to think that the current trend won’t continue.  Time for another argument with myself.

Why France won’t win again

1) No Daniel Narcisse:  Arguably, Daniel Narcisse is the best  “1 on 1” offensive player in the World.  At key moments in the past few tournaments, he’s used those skills to rattle off some goals and quickly turn a close game into a 3 or 4 goal lead in the space of a few possessions.  With Narcisse out due to injuries France will have to rely on other players to step up and fill his shoes.  And while there are some other very able backcourts none of them have the explosiveness of Narcisse.

2) No Guillame Gille:  Gille is not the star player that Narcisse is, but he’s a very competent Center Back.  If I was coach Claude Onesta, the first thing I’d do in the absence of Narcisse is move Karabatic to left back and let Gille run the show.  Not an option here, so it will be interesting to see the lineup chosen.

3) Circle Runners on the “outs” with their club team:  I’ve been watching a lot of Hamburg matches on “My Sports Germany” and it’s interesting to note that former Handball player of the year, Bertrand Gille has been relegated to backup Circle Runner behind Igor Vori.  Of course, Vori, is the best in the World now, but still he hasn’t been playing much on the offensive side of the court.  Additionally, I’ve read that the same thing is happening with Cedric Sorhaindo down in Barcelona

4) Short preparation time:  France did not have a very extensive preparatory session prior to the World Championship.  Are they perhaps getting a little over confident?  They only beat Argentina by 3 goals in Paris?

Why France will win again

1) Who’s going to beat them?  While I’ve pointed to some clear chinks in France’s armor, as my colleague Christer Ahl pointed out previously other teams have injuries to deal with.  And more importantly, none of the other top nations have near the depth that France has in terms of replacing them.

2) Nikola Karabatic is due for a break out tournament.  This may seem like an absurd statement to make about the consensus best player in the world, but I think it’s a valid one.  Notably, I’ve had to explain to several handball neophytes who’ve seen France play why while that Narcisse guy is very good, it’s that workmanlike Karabatic who’s pulling the strings on that team and making everything happen.  With Narcisse out I expect Karabatic to step up his scoring a bit and make it clear to anyone who was doubting it, that he is indeed the world’s best.

3) Theirry Omeyer.  There’s nothing quite so comforting as to have the best goalie in the world between the bars making 3 or 4 (or even more) saves that no other goalie in the world will probably make.

In the end, I suspect that France again will ascend to the podium.  The oddsmakers also definitely concur as France is slightly more than an even money bet to win the tournament.  It’s possible that they will fail in their quest, but I wouldn’t bet against them.