London 2012 - Holders France face early exit

Sat, 21 Jan 13:49:00 2012

Holders France are staring at an early exit from the European Handball Championship in Serbia after Friday's shock 26-23 defeat by Hungary left them carrying no points into the Main Round.

France - Hongrie, 2012 - 0

France, also the world and Olympic champions, had not lost a match in three major events prior to a 29-26 loss to Spain in their opening Preliminary Round match in the northern city of Novi Sad.

They then beat Russia 28-24 but the Hungary defeat means they need to win all three games in the second group stage of the competition and other results to go their way in order to qualify for the semi-finals.

"Hungarian goalkeeper Nandor Fazekas had a great match, he closed shop and we just couldn't find a way past him," France coach Claude Onesta said after seeing his side squander a two-goal halftime lead.

Left wing Samuel Honrubia added: "We knew it would be tough because Hungary have had a great tournament so far and thousands of their fans in the SPENS Arena also made it difficult for us."

World championship runners-up Denmark, beaten by France in last year's final, are also in trouble after defeats by hosts Serbia and Poland left them bottom of their Main Round group with no points.

They squeezed through to the second stage with a laboured 30-25 win over eliminated Slovakia but even a treble of wins in the Main Round would not guarantee them a semi-final berth. Wins against eliminated teams are scrapped when you carry the other two results into the Main Round.

The second stage features two groups of six, with teams carrying two of their three Preliminary Round results into the Main Round. The top two teams from each group will qualify for the semi-finals.

Reuters

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