Opponent of the Danish formation of Aalborg in the semi-finals this Saturday, the club of the capital hopes to finally win the European Grail after which it has been chasing for several seasons.
And if this time, it was the right one for Paris SG in the Champions League? What if the Parisian handball players succeeded where their footballing counterparts have also stumbled since the Qataris took power in 2012? For several years, PSG has had its round table in the Final Four of the European competition, without for the moment managing to win the cup. As if this one obstinately refused to stumble Middle Eastern sirens. With the culmination of the painful defeat in the final on June 4, 2017 against Vardar Skopje, with a very small goal scored in the last second (23-24). A stab that Nedim Remili remembers, as if it had happened yesterday: “I still remember this action very well, with “Titi” (Thierry Omeyer) who is very close to taking that last shot from the leg and if after the match goes into overtime, we know that the end could have been totally different. That’s the magic of the Final Four, and that’s what makes it so exciting and attractive.“
“There is no history of the favorite and the outsider. The Final Four is a crazy weekend that brings together the best handball players on the planet and it’s very hard, quite simply. “
A year later, another blow would fall on the corner of the Parisian heads with an elimination in the semi-finals against Nantes (28-32), which would then lose for the title against Montpellier (27-32 ), leaving Luka Karabatic and others to join their crestfallen home. Scheduled to win the queen of continental competitions, PSG had both failed and seen one of its rivals from France beat it down. A double affront which explained, at least in part, the failed following season with an elimination in the quarterfinals. The only time, therefore, since 2016 when the capital club did not play in the Final Four of the competition. Always placed with its XXL workforce, but never victorious, PSG chomping at the bit. “In view of the last editions, we can see that there is no winning formula», Remili analyzes for Le Figaro. “There is no such thing as a favorite and an outsider. The Final Four is a crazy weekend that brings together the best handball players on the planet and it’s very hard, quite simply. You have two matches in two days, which are played on details.“
However, this 2021 vintage could finally put an end to this long wait. For several reasons. First, the draw offered Raul Gonzalez’s men a semi-final well within their reach against the unexpected Danish formation of Aalborg, narrowly passed both in the round of 16 against Porto (for the benefit of the most large number of away goals) than against the Germans of Flensburg (dismissed for a small goal in both matches) in the quarterfinals. In other words, the Scandinavian team is not an ogre like FC Barcelona, opposed to Nantes in the other semi-final. The second reason for optimism is quite simply the level of play displayed by the champions of France, especially since February and the end of the World Cup in Egypt. With only three defeats in 26 matches in all competitions, the Parisians have been particularly strong. Like their quarter-final return against Kiel, a defending titleholder without a shadow of a misunderstanding at Coubertin (34-28).
Soon the song of the Parisian swan?
Logically crowned champion of France for the 7e consecutive year, PSG, despite the departure of Sander Sagosen last summer, is armed in all positions and can rely on the return from injury of its leader, Nikola Karabatic, admittedly lacking competition in the legs but fresh roach and ultra-motivated as the Olympics approach. As long as Mikkel Hansen takes out his gala dress in Cologne and Elohim Prandi performs the same type of festival as against Kiel and the Ile-de-France team have impressive punching power on the rear base. And last reason to believe that PSG can lift the cup on Sunday at the end of the final, this 2021 edition could sound like the swan song of a dream team, built with great blows of millions but endangered advanced …
Indeed, after the departures of Sagosen and Luc Abalo, it will be the turn this summer of young winger Dylan Nahi (21) to leave the Parisian cocoon to fly to Kielce, Poland. A heavy loss in view of the superb season achieved by the international, which has passed one or even several caps in the last six months. Then, in 2022, it will be Mikkel Hansen (Aalborg) and goalkeeper Vincent Gérard (Saint-Raphaël) who will leave the liner PSG, as well as Remili, announced on the Kielce side and who had told Figaro two weeks ago to have already made his choice. Whatever the outcome of this Final Four in Cologne. As for Nikola Karabatic, at 37, he is no longer getting any younger and even if his head remains on top, the body is beginning to show the painful scars of so many years at the highest international level. These are elements that are difficult to replace, both technically and in terms of leadership in the locker room. A new page will open for PSG. But in the meantime, he would like to close the current chapter in the most beautiful way, by winning the European Grail.