Karabatic brothers shine in special game against Serbia

GROUP I REVIEW: France win their fifth game in a row at the EHF EURO 2018, 39:30, versus Serbia, but are still not certain of proceeding to the medal round

France continued their dominant performance and maintained their perfect winning record, as current World Player of the Year Nikola Karabatic reached a milestone. Photo: Sasa Pahic Szabo

France remain the only team with a 100 per cent winning record at the EHF EURO 2018, after coach Didier Dinart’s side cruised to a 39:30 (19:12) victory against Serbia in Arena Zagreb on Monday. While resting their first-team players in the second half, with consideration for their showdown against Croatia on Wednesday, France handed Serbia one of their worst losses in EHF EURO history. The nine-goal difference at the final whistle was only one less than the record set two years ago, 36:26, in the mutual game between the two sides in Krakow.

Only two minutes into the game, Serbia’s mission became more difficult, as one of their top defensive players, Mijajlo Marsenic, received a direct red card after a hit on Kentin Mahe.

It went from bad to worse for Serbia, with France opening up a 10:7 lead thanks to a 4:0 run inspired by right back Nedim Remili.

But it was Nikola Karabatic who really shone for France. In what was a special game for the PSG superstar, who levelled the record of his coach, Didier Dinart, as the player with the most appearances for France at the EHF EURO (57), Karabatic was instrumental in both defence and in offence.

The Serbian-born Frenchman offered several superb passes, scored four goals in the first half and stopped the opponents in their tracks with a pair of steals. Therefore, it was no surprise that France cruised to a 19:12 lead at half-time, with their fifth consecutive win at the EHF EURO 2018 already in sight.

Second-fiddle France dominate second half

With the win essentially in the bag, it was time for Dinart to give some playing time to those who have not had much at the EURO, with the high-pressure game against Croatia looming.

Therefore, Dika Mem and Romain Lagarde, the pair who won gold medals at the Men’s 18 EHF EURO 2014 and U19 World Championship 2015, as well as bronze at the Men’s 20 EHF EURO 2016 and U21 World Championship 2017, anchored France’s back line, as ‘Les Experts’ ran riot against Serbia’s defence.

With left wing Raphael Caucheteux and line player Luka Karabatic reaching a tally of seven goals apiece, France had little trouble taking the clear victory.

Despite the eight points in their account, France are not yet through to the semi-finals.

“It was a good game, we played good defence and made some fast goals,” said France goalkeeper Vincent Gerard. “We are waiting for the results of Sweden and Norway to know what we have to do in the game against Croatia. Either way, it's going to be a hard game, but we will try to win.”

written by Adrian Costeiu / cg