France have added EHF EURO gold to the world title they won one year ago. The hosts truly delivered in the sold-out AccorHotels Arena in Paris, as they defeated Olympic champions Russia 24:21 in a dramatic final.
The match was attended by 14,060 ecstatic fans, the highest attendance for any match in the 24-year history of the Women’s EHF EUROs.
France are succeeding Norway, which also held both the European and world title two years ago.
France had not beaten Russia since their quarter-final of the World Championship 2011, and had lost all four matches since, including the final of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and the EHF EURO 2018 opening match.
"I am lucky to be part of this team, to play with these great players like Siraba and Amandine and all the other great girls. We wrote history for French women's handball today," said Gnonsiane Niombla.
Russia lost their second EHF EURO Final, after being beaten by Norway in 2006.
Russia vs France 21:24 (12:13)
The final had the expected tight start. Anna Sen opened the scoring on the first attack, but Russia were shut down for the next five minutes, as France received the start to the final they and their euphoric fans had hoped for.
Helped by a couple of excellent saves from goalkeeper Amandine Leynaud, the hosts were able to open up the first two-goal lead of the match (3:1) in the fifth minute when Allison Pineau converted a penalty.
But even though left wing Daria Samokhina went off with a two-minute suspension shortly afterwards, Russia quickly restored the balance.
Both France and Russia immediately showed their variety in attack, as for either team, the first seven goals were scored by six different players, with only Beatrice Edwige and Anna Sen striking twice.
Another 3:0 run helped France regain a two-goal lead (9:7), which remained intact until 12:10 in the 26th minute, when Estelle Nze Minko raised her tally to four goals.
Alexandra Lacrabere’s second goal and a last-second save by Amandine Leynaud restored the French lead before the break (13:12).
Emotions in arena were at a peak early in the second half, as Allison Pineau was sent off with a red card. The centre back converted a penalty for 16:13, but her shot touched the side of goalkeeper’s Anna Sedoykina’s head.
With Pineau leaving the court in tears and burying her face in a towel, France quickly got their composure back.
France saw Russia come as close as one goal, but despite Evgenii Trefilov’s intense coaching from the sideline, the team failed to level the score again, let alone take a lead.
Alexandra Lacrabere was particularly important in that phase, as she scored three French goals in succession, each time when Russia had just reduced the gap to a single goal.
The series made Lacrabere the best scorer for France with six goals in total, while Anna Vyakhireva led for Russia with seven.
"It’s great moment in our history. It was a fantastic game and an incredible audience. They pushed us all along the match. In my memory, this is the most emotional match I have ever been involved in,” said France coach Olivier Krumbholz.