EDF (M) | Bad carburetor for the World Cup in Poland

After coming through the main draw of the world championship which was drenched in rain, the French team finally faced a tight match this Sunday. Is the current competition formula still correct?

By opening its world championship to thirty-two teams in 2021, the international federation has made no secret of its goal: to open the world’s biggest competition to countries that previously had no access to it. Hence something positive was inevitable, while the marriage of European handball could, in the long term, gain a better place in the Olympic programme. If the disadvantages of this formula went relatively unnoticed in 2021 in Egypt, they soared this year in everyone’s eyes. Especially with extended main draws, where teams find themselves eliminated, sometimes from day one. The no-reference selection at the highest level certainly managed to win their sesame for the second round of the World Cup, but like the United States or Iran, find themselves exhausted, leaving many matches without a stake to play, such as France-Iran on Friday night. “To be honest, it wasn’t a dream…” tricolor delegate member slips. Kentin Mahé celebrated his suspension at 18:30 on Wednesday in front of an empty stand (pictured), we’ve definitely seen better…

“Puzzle of finding the right formula”

If the formula leaves something to be desired, however, it must be acknowledged that the IHF’s task has not been easy. How about integrating countries, mostly non-European, in a formula where they associate with a selection featuring the best players in the world? “It’s a real headache to find the right formula, to organize the integration of a team that needs to play against tough adversity to progress. But leaving the goat and cabbage aside, we arrive at a rather comical situation.” notes Guillaume Gille, coach of the French team. If he really has a good eye on Iran or Saudi Arabia and can therefore rotate his workforce some of his players could find a long way to go. And the prospect of playing France – Spain with little at stake on Sunday didn’t boost attendance either. “It’s not advertising our sport to play this game with nothing on the line” Gil continued.

A sad spectacle in front of the empty stands

The long impression certainly can’t be helped by the empty Tauron Arena stands. If Spodek of Katowice, particularly in the opening match against the host nation, has been quite the spectacle, it was the rows of empty gray chairs in the Krakow hall that did not make the players enthusiastic as they stepped onto the pitch. “Poland was knocked out, maybe that’s why people didn’t come. My parents tell me that in town there is a lot less publicity for the event than in 2016” said Ludovic Fabregas, while Guillaume Gille resurrected “Inflation, war is not far from here. We can understand that people have choices to make. And when you know the spirit of the Polish public, surely his absence makes the show a bit more bland.

Going back to a format with more direct eliminations?

So what to do? A return to a stricter formula, even if that meant undoing the efforts put in several years to develop handball in countries where the culture was not established? Or a return to a competition format that boasts a place for knockout matches, even if it means jeopardizing certain historic nations? “Having experienced other competition formats, this is much easier to read for the public and also, solves the problem of the intensity that players have in meetings” ends Guillaume Gille while Vincent Gérard points out this departure from the extended formula: “We are seeing more and more that teams that fight to the end end up losing, so the system favors big countries with large pools of players. It’s like a snake biting its own tail. In the opinion of many, the problem is complex, not insoluble. Meanwhile, as Yanis Lenne says, “for us, the competition is a bit long”…

In Krakow, Kevin Domas

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