by Simon Daish
The match opened with a mouthwatering contest between two of the continent’s finest as home favourite Simon Gauzy met German legend Timo Boll. In the past Gauzy has proved to be somewhat of a boogie player for Boll with the French star entering the match with a superior 3:1 head-to-head record but that margin was reduced to 3:2 in Nantes as Boll emerged victorious across four games (11-7, 15-13, 8-11, 11-7) to put Germany ahead.
Having just witnessed defeat for his teammate it was Emmanuel Lebesson’s turn to take to the table for France and what a task he was handed with Dimitrij Ovtcharov standing opposite. Showing great character Lebesson started the stronger of the two and was rightly rewarded with the opening game, however, that was as good as it got for the Frenchman with the following three games going in Ovtcharov’s favour (9-11, 11-3, 11-5, 11-7) as Germany raced into a 2-0 lead.
A stunning performance in the quarter-finals saw France pull off a great escape in a similar position against Poland – could the hosts do it again?
With Gauzy and Lebesson falling in the opening two fixtures of the evening, the onus fell on the shoulders of Can Akkuzu to rescue the situation, but the odds were stacked further yet as Patrick Franziska put his name two games to the good against the young French player. Though Akkuzu managed to bridge the gap in game four to restore some hope for the local fans, in the end it was Franziska who left the table with a smile on his face (11-6, 11-8, 5-11, 11-7) as Germany confirmed its spot in the final.
At the end of the day the French squad can hold their heads high following a decent campaign in front of the home crowd in Nantes.
However, the fact of the matter is that France is still searching for its first men’s team title on the European Championships stage since 1998! French hopes were sky high in 2016 with Emmanuel Lebesson and Simon Gauzy taking home the men’s singles gold and silver medals respectively at the European Championships in Budapest. Not to be on home soil in Nantes, another chance goes begging, but with plenty of young talent coming through the ranks there are bound to be many more opportunities for Team France to secure continental glory in the future.
As for Germany, the search for an eighth men’s team gold medal at the European Championships enters its final stretch at 4:00 pm local time on Sunday 8th September with 2014 champions Portugal providing the opposition. A repeat of the 2017 final, on which occasion Germany completed the task at hand by a commanding 3-0 score-line but expect a tight encounter between the two nations in what should prove to be an thrilling contest.