France is the first EHF Euro 2014 finalist! With an obligatory shout: ‘Allez!’,Les Experts have secured their third European championship final in history. If tradition is anything to go by, France could now be well on their way to their third Euro trophy as well, as the Experts have won in both of their European championship finals so far.But it wasn’t all fun and games for Claude Onesta’s team from the beginning, as the Olympic champions have lost the second half after a series of errors on both defensive and offensive end, which saw Spain turn the match to their favor at the break. It was the first five minutes that proved key like so many times before as France had managed to turn the match in their favor in the opening minutes the second period and win 30:27 in the end, in a match that could easily go down as another Euro classic.
The first half saw France open the game excellently upon confusion and bad defensive focus from Spanish team. It was Thierry Omeyer who marked the first 12 minutes of the match with two point-blank saves at the very beginning andan impeccable record of 50% saved mid-way through the first half. The first 15 minutes have been difficult to predict for anyone as France lead the game with 10:5upon individual fast-break from Guigou. Twenty minutes into the match the result stood at 11:7 with both Abalo and Guigou 100% (3/3) from their chances as Spain started to feel increasingly worried about their performance in this match. The difference JulenAguinagalde made to the Spanish team since recovering from injury became that much more evident when Vive Targi Kielce line-player made it 12:10, 6 minutes until the end of the half. France were just poorly focused defensively in the last minutes of the halfLuka Karabatić and Accambray got suspensions for their careless tackles. It was Canellas that brought Spain back to life with his strike for 12:11, five minutes until the half-time whistle. Last four minutes of the half, were married by turnovers, technical errors and suspensions for ‘Les Bleus’ asCanleas’ was putting in a clinic, with no less than four consecutive goals unanswered by the French, that completed the 6:0 series for Hispanos and 8:1 turnaround that brought Spain a two-goal lead at halftime, with 12:14 the score.
First minutes of the second half were marked with caution from Spanish team, but France was aggressive on both ends in a bid to get back the lead. After Luka Karabatić received his second suspension of the match that marked the decisive moment for ‘Les Bleus’ as the individual quality of Narcisse and Karabatić shone though to level the score at 16:16, five minutes from the start of the half. Narcisse and Porte made it 18:16, upon a 6:2 series, from the French team before Porte again, putting in a show to separate the teams with three goals at the start of the 40th minute. After Nikola Karabatić got his second suspension of the match, which made the Serbian-born back proceed to the gam with caution, Ugalde leveled the score at 21:21. Ten minutes until the final whistle saw Entrerios set the score at 24 all, assisted by Aguinagalde. Luka Karabatić received his third suspension and therefore an automatic red-card for a tackle to preserve his team’s narrow lead at 25:24. Porte made it 27:25 after a timeout form Onesta, and ‘Les Experts’ were heading into the last five minutes of the match with 28:26, after a goal from Abalo.Canelas’ ten goals of the night couldn’t stop the French, who entered the last minute celebrating, after Luc Abalo set what will be the final score at 30:27 and more importantly the final to play in on January 26. Spain will have an opportunity to finish the job left undone in Serbia when they failed to win the Bronze medal loosing to Croatia, guaranteeing a busy day at Jyske Bank Boxen on Sunday!
TEXT: NEMANJA SAVIC