Oh la la — France loses to Qatar — perhaps just ‘comme il faut’

Following the IHF Council meeting on January 27, there was a sense of ‘deja vu all over again’…  Just a couple of months ago, Qatar surprised many, and angered some, by winning the rights to host the World Championship in football 2022.  Now the IHF President was getting ready to reveal the name of the host for the 2015 World Championship.  French representatives seemed tense but hopeful – surely it would be enough to rely on recent years of successes on the court and a reputation for being able to organize events!?

But, au contraire, out of the envelope came the dreaded 5-letter word: QATAR!   A philosophical French representative was heard mumbling: c’est la vie…   but the more typical representatives were instead commenting to the French media in terms of ‘deception immense!’ (Note: deception in French means disappointment) ‘How could this have happened’, they seemed to ask.  ‘What did they do to avoid this defeat’, might have been a more relevant reflection.

Two other candidates never seemed to be in the running, namely Poland and Norway.  The Norwegian bid was heard being described as lacking in conviction.  And the Poles seemed to have done a great job of explaining in writing everything that might have been needed to answer serious questions.  But had they done any ‘selling’?  Yes, technically speaking, the only ones voting on the matter are those Council members who are not from one of the candidate countries.  But in this day and age of constant bombardment of advertising through a multitude of media, is it not obvious that a serious contender needs to create a ‘hype’, an ambience of having the winning product?

So what did the French do, en route to the final decision-making in Malmoe.  Well, they relied a lot on reputation, they used their proud French team as the ‘poster boys’ par excellence, and they seemed to feel it would be a bit too ‘gauche’ to do any heavy selling of their bid.  This may have been a major faux pas.  By contrast, the Qatari spared no effort (or riyal) to draw attention to their bid and to what would be special about a Championship hosted in their country.  The rented a banquet room and hosted a reception in what looked like a large-size Bedouin tent, with Middle Eastern food as the piece de resistance, but also with plenty of sophisticated advertising material and some small souvenirs available.

Of course, advertising and appearances are not the only considerations.  In a global sport there are different ways of enhancing the growth outside the traditional handball countries.  One of them is to allow a non-traditional, non-European country to host the Men’s World Championship every now and then.  After four consecutive events in major European handball countries 2007-2013, perhaps it is ‘comme il faut’ that one of the few non-Europeans that is likely to have capacity for such an event gets a chance in 2015.

Moreover, when Spain applied for 2011 (and later on were rewarded for 2013) they argued rather awkwardly and arrogantly that they should get the votes for 2011 simply as a major handball country that had never organized the event.  At least they were correct on the fact.  But France organized the Men’s Championship as recently as in 2001 and the women’s event in late 2007. So are they really overdue for another chance?

I do not personally know if Qatar ‘deserved’ to win, whatever this means.  But I have the sense that just because there were/are some concerns about football and 2022, it may be too easy to taint handball and 2015 with the same brush.  Also, the ‘noveau riche’ do not tend to get much respect.  But just as we accept that our teams are winning and losing, I think it now behooves the international handball family to rally around this event and do everything to ensure that it creates the global propaganda that we all are hoping for and that our sport needs.


France repeats as World Champs. Denmark wins silver, Spain bronze.

The 22nd edition of the Handball World Championships concluded on Sunday in Malmö with the French emerging as victors. Karabatic & Co defeated Denmark 37:35 in extra time, in one of the closest contests in recent memory.  France’s fourth world title ties them with  Sweden and Romania who each have four as well.

In his latest podcast, Bogdan Pasat is joined again by former Romanian International Cristian Zaharia to discuss and break down the final contests, France’s dynasty and what the rest of the handball world must do in order to dethrone the mighty French. Tune in for another 45 minutes of expert analysis available to you,  only on THN.


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.