Fantastic France win Under 21 world gold
Despite finishing third in their preliminary round group, France’s Under 21 men moved through the gears and hit top form when it mattered most at the World Championship in Spain.
After battling through gruelling knockout matches against hosts Spain, Denmark and Egypt, awaiting them in the final was the impressive Croatians.
Featuring the competition’s MVP Ivan Martinovic, Croatia fancied their chances in the nation’s very first final at this level.
But Martinovic made little impact as France asserted their authority right from the beginning, racing into a 10:3 lead.
Despite the best efforts of Josip Sarac and Halil Jaganjac, Croatia never really got into the game and France held on to their five-goal half-time lead to win 28:23, with Benjamin Richert, Antonin Mohamed and Kyllian Villeminot leading a well-balanced and dangerous attack.
This group of French players, born 1998 and later, are have proven to be a true golden generation, having won three gold medals (2016 M18 EURO, 2017 M19 WCh, 2019 M21 WCh) and one silver (2018 M20 EURO) in their four years of major international tournaments.
MVP: Ivan Martinovic, Croatia
Goalkeeper: Valentin Kieffer, France
Left wing: Dylan Nahi, France
Left back: Emil Laerke, Denmark
Centre back: Kyllian Villeminot, France
Right back: Diogo Silva, Portugal
Right wing: Fran Mileta, Croatia
Line player: Luis Frade, Portugal
Top scorer: Diogo Silva, Portugal – 76 goals
Men’s Under 21 World Championship Final Ranking
Gold – France
Silver – Croatia
Bronze – Egypt
16. South Korea
22. United States
Photo credit: IHF
TEXT: Chris O’Reilly