Handball Euro: Guillaume Gille guides the Blues to the heights

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A short defeat before flying to the European Championships. The French team of handball lost by a small goal difference (35-34) against Germany, Sunday January 9 in Wetzlar, during their only match of preparation for the Euro, which takes place in Hungary and Slovakia from 13 to January 30.

If the second half can leave regrets for Nikola Karabatic and his teammates, the setback did not shake the serenity of coach Guillaume Gille. “We are here to continue working and make sure we are ready to start the Euro”, estimated the coach, realistic but confident a few days before their entry into competition, Thursday, January 13, against Croatia.

A blue at the head of the Blues

Coach of the Blues for barely two years, the former center half with 308 selections is now unanimous with his players. A dazzling but also surprising takeover: “Gino” had never found himself at the head of a very high level team before taking the reins of the French team.

“Guillaume’s choice was not the most obvious, remembers Philippe Bana, president of the French Handball Federation. He had very little experience while others were calling for a tactician to lead the team. The players themselves wondered about this choice. »

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He took it well: just a few months after his arrival on the bench, Guillaume Gille was already leading the Blues to the top of world handball. Despite a preparation very upset by the health crisis, the Drôme and his men won a new Olympic title by triumphing over their Danish rivals on Japanese soil. The third, after the successes of 2008 and 2012. In those years, “Gino” was on the floor, ball in hand and blue jersey on his back.

big brother role

The task, however, was difficult. After the Euro 2020 fiasco – elimination of France in the first round to everyone’s surprise – the team had to be completely rebuilt. “The France team had lost its way, recalls Philippe Bana. The group was in small pieces. » Hence the idea of ​​calling on Guillaume Gille, then assistant to Didier Dinart: “More than a tactician, the French team needed a big brother, someone who embodied the spirit and values ​​of a French team which had dominated its sport for several years. »

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Mario Cavalli knows Guillaume Gille well for having coached him since his arrival in Chambéry in 1994. He is not surprised to see him shine in his new costume: “Guillaume has always been a unifier. He was close to the staff and gave instructions to the players. » An ability to supervise that Philippe Bana had also detected very early in the player: “When I met him for the first time before the Sydney Games in 2000, I immediately noticed that he showed a height of vision that was unmatched by the other players. »

participating management

An altruistic player who listens to his teammates, Guillaume Gille continues to establish the collective as a cardinal value. These principles materialize in a form of participative management, inherited, in part, from its predecessor. Claude Onesta. The coach has thus established “game councils”, restricted meetings with executive players to collectively determine the team’s game plan. He also relies on the authority of elders, like Nikola Karabatic, with whom he wrote the most beautiful pages of French handball.

As idyllic as his beginnings at the head of the Blues were, Guillaume Gille now faces a major challenge: winning the Euro and imitating the “Experts”, the only French team to have won a major title directly after the conquest. Olympic laurels. “In handball, winning the Euro is even harder than winning the Olympics given the density of the participating teams”, Mario Cavalli observes.

Proof that sports performance still serves as the ultimate justice of the peace, Didier Dinart did not survive the rout of 2020, despite a world champion title in 2017 and two bronze medals obtained at the European and World Championships. world for the next two years. “At this level, it is the results that validate the coach’s method”, warns Mario Cavalli. Double European champion as a player in 2006 and 2010, Guillaume Gille knows the way to go.

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many absences

Opposed to Croatia, Serbia and Ukraine in Group C, the France team embarks on the competition despite the absence of some of its best elements. Owners Nedim Remili and Luka Karabatic are both out due to injury. Just like left-back Timothey N’Guessan.

Elohim Prandi is still convalescing after being the victim of a knife attack on New Year’s Eve. Last annoyance for Guillaume Gille, the positive test of captain Valentin Porte. “We have a good depth of staff, which we want to use to the full”, however reassured the coach.

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