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Defending champs France head to seventh world handball final

© Franck Fife, AFP | Nikola Karabatic (c) and his France teammates beat Slovenia 31-25 on January 26, 2017.


Latest update : 2017-01-27

Defending champions France defeated Slovenia 31-25 on Thursday to reach the final of the world handball championships and get to within touching distance of a sixth major international title.

Leading 15-12 at half-time, six-time finalists France stretched their advantage after the interval and set-up a Sunday title showdown against either Croatia or Norway, who play their semi-final on Friday.

France, world champions in 1995, 2001, 2009, 2011 and 2015, will start as favourites for the title having seen Olympic champions Denmark and European champions Germany knocked out in the last 16.

The French, who beat Sweden 33-30 in the quarter-finals, have already beaten Norway by 31-28 in the pool stages and have lost just once to Croatia in five meetings since the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Right-back Nedim Remili finished top scorer for the home side on Thursday with six goals while Daniel Narcisse found the target four times.

Goalkeeper Vincent Gerard, starting for the first time at the tournament, made 16 saves from 39 shots faced on Thursday and was named man of the match.

"They gave us lots of problems, we didn't win this match easily," said Remili.

"We knew that we would have to take the lead early and hold it until the end. That was very important."

The Paris-based player said he had no preference over who France face in Sunday's title match.

"Croatia and Norway are two very good teams who play very good handball. It's of little importance who wins Friday, we do not have a preference. We will concentrate on ourselves just as we have done throughout the tournament," added Remili.

Croatia should start as favourites against Norway although their last world title came back in 2003 while they were also Olympic gold medallists in 1996 and 2004.

Croatia edged 2013 world champions Spain 30-29 in the quarter-finals thanks to nine goals from left-back Marko Mamic, as Norway booked their first semi-final at the worlds with a 31-28 win over Hungary.


Date created : 2017-01-27


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