France face final fight to retain title

France will have history in their sights when they play Sweden today as they attempt to become the first team to defend the men's Handball Olympic title.

France celebrate making Handball final
(L-R) Luc Abalo, Nikola Karabatic and William Accambray of France celebrate the victory over Croatia that put them in the men's Handball final.

Sweden have a chance to shake off the tag of nearly men - they took home a silver medal from Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000, but have never managed to top the podium.

France, who are reigning world champions, topped the podium at Beijing 2008 four years ago and assured themselves of at least a silver medal at London 2012 when they edged past Croatia 25-22 in a semi-final at the Basketball Arena.

They will be favourites to earn gold again against the Scandinavians, who were not expected to advance much further than the quarter-finals, having been a team in transition.

Claude Onesta's French side also have something to prove after a disappointing campaign at January's European Championships in Serbia, where they failed to reach the semi-finals.

Right-back Jerome Fernandez said: 'We want to win the gold medal because it's very important for us. We had an accident in Serbia and we want to come back and prove we are the best.

'We have had six or seven weeks of preparation in the build-up to London and we needed that. We needed to get fresh because our players have played a lot of games for their clubs.

'It has never been done before but one day the statistics have to change so I think that it can be us to win two gold medals in back-to-back Olympics. Why not?'

Pivot William Accambray said his side did not expect to be facing Sweden at this stage and is confident of victory.

Now we are in the final and have at least a silver medal waiting. But it would be wonderful to turn it into gold.

Staffan Olsson

'We didn't assume that we would be playing them at this point in the competition but they are a good team, they play well, so we will have to analyse the video to see how we will play against them,' he said.

'We hope that Sweden will play just like Croatia did and we are happy with having Sweden in the final, but we know we have not reached the end yet and we still have to win.'

Sweden coach Staffan Olsson said of the team's place in the final: 'It means so much for us to reach the final here in London. We had targeted the quarter-finals and then the semi-finals.

'Now we are in the final and have at least a silver medal waiting. But it would be wonderful to turn it into gold.

'We are there with a chance, but it will be a tough game. I have real faith and belief in this team. It has real fright and desire to succeed.'

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