The coach of the France team spoke of what awaits his troops on Friday (5.30 p.m., BeIN Sport and TMC), in the semi-finals of the World Cup against Sweden.
Guillaume, do you feel proud, for your first competition as a coach, to have reached the last four of a World Cup and to have succeeded in founding a group?
Guillaume Gille: The pride is linked to our journey rather than to my personal case. I’m glad we were able to find this path until this stage of the competition, but I’m not yet in the review period. I’m not looking back to see what we’ve accomplished yet. There is work ahead of us and a huge challenge awaiting us against Sweden. I am only focused on that.
On the bench, you always seem very calm, including even during the very difficult start of the match for your players in the quarter-finals. How do you do not let your worries and stress show through?
In this failed start to the match, there were a lot of ingredients that meant that we were dropped in terms of the score. We were quickly under pressure. The idea, for my staff and me, is then to find the right balance, between when to act and when to give confidence. But there is no recipe or rule to follow to the letter to allow a recovery of the situation like that of this quarter-final. It remains improbable what we lived. At this level, finding themselves behind 9-3 after 15 minutes, there aren’t many who manage to emerge victorious on arrival. It has been for us. It was an exceptional moment, and I hope it will remain exceptional (smile).
“Sweden is a very dangerous mix because there is a lot of recklessness, speed in their game, with great shooters.”
In 2018 at the Euro and in 2019 at the World Cup, you stumbled over the course of the semi-finals. Is there a glass ceiling to break?
I do not believe. Indeed, this is the story of part of this team but winning against Sweden will not bring us back the places in the finals that we have not been able to obtain in other competitions. This semi-final is a moment to continue to grow, in this very special context. The group has learned from past experiences and without redoing its history in the last squares, there are many teams that would like to participate at this stage of the competition. And there are very few who find that way. We are fortunate in France to have a team that often disputes the final packaging and that is what is fantastic for our business. All that concerns me is how to approach this semi-final in the right frame of mind to develop our game, to impose our strength on the Swedes.
How do you see this rejuvenated Swedish team, which does not seem to suffer from the absence of some of its executives?
It’s a talented team. It is true that it has lost some of its big names but the overall backbone remains very experienced, with very strong players at the international level. It’s a very dangerous mix because there is a lot of recklessness, speed in their game, with great shooters. Frankly, it’s a cocktail that has proven itself since the start of the competition. For a very reshaped team, they have found their way through the matches and they amply deserve their place in this last four.
Is this a handball classic?
This France-Sweden has long been very unbalanced because before France became this strong nation of handball, Sweden largely dominated. They have often beaten us the pawn. But today, Sweden is trying to find colors. She has often been very close to the podiums in the last major competitions, with a youth who still has so much talent. So clearly, it will be a big duel.
“With the staff, we don’t aim to be different, daring or daring. What we want is to find the right formula to have performance in the field ”
For your first competition in this role of coach number 1, we would have expected conservative choices from you. But in the end, you are bold. Is it essential in this reconstruction process?
My choices, this daring that you mention, are simply linked to what is happening on the ground. With the staff, we don’t aim to be different, daring or daring. What we want is to find the right formula to have performance on the pitch. When we feel the team is struggling, we try to remedy it with the alternatives we have, without going much further than that.
How do you plan to manage the absences of Luka Karabatic and Timothey N’Guessan, both injured?
We will see. The diagnosis remains to be refined. Luka and Tim couldn’t finish the match against Hungary, we know they are affected but we prefer to wait and take all precautions before making a decision. What is certain is that there are 20 of us here in Cairo and the idea is to rely first on that reservoir.
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Some players have confided in discussing with Nikola Karabatic, who remained in Paris due to an injury. Is this also the case?
We keep in touch by messages, to follow the progress of his rehabilitation. But life at the head of a selection is dense enough that it leaves me little time to maintain long discussions with all the people who are part of the France house. However, I know that Niko is with us, in support. The group misses him, but we have to be successful without him.