France survive Algeria scare at World Cup

World Cup favourites France survived a second half scare from the bottom team in Group C, Algeria, on Thursday to win 32-26 and maintain their unbeaten record.

The reigning European and Olympic champions ended up winning by six goals in a game they had initially threatened to win with ease, but which ended up becoming far more uncomfortable.

The second-half onslaught from the North Africans was in total contrast to a one-sided first 30 minutes, which saw France go into the break 19-12 ahead.

France had taken an early 2-0 lead and maintained their superiority throughout the first half, with Alix Nyokas threatening the Algerian defence on several occasions and scoring twice.

But within 10 minutes of the second period, Algeria had reduced the arrears to just two goals at 23-21, thanks in large part to man-of-the-match Messaoud Berkous, who ended up with 11 goals.

And in the 44th minute, a breakaway goal from Riad Chehbour reduced France’s lead to just a single goal at 23-22, prompting huge celebrations from the hundreds of Algerian supporters in the stadium.

But that proved to be as good as it got for the Algerians.

Despite several other chances to score for the Algerians, France were able to eke out a five-goal lead, with just seven minutes remaining, Michael Guigou leading the French attack and scoring seven goals in all.

The French are historically slow starters in handball, but this win left them with three wins and a draw out of four.

Up to 500 more French fans are expected to travel to the Gulf next week, when the knockout stage begins.

The game left Algeria still searching for a first point, with four defeats from four matches and confirmed their exit from the tournament.

Despite security concerns, there was no repetition of the “Je Suis Mohammed” banners displayed at last week’s France v Egypt match.

In Thursday’s other games, Sweden and Egypt, also in Group C, played out a thrilling 25-25 draw. Both sides have already qualified for the last 16.

Also in Group C, the Czech Republic beat Iceland 36-25, meaning both sides have a chance of qualifying going into this weekend’s final group games.

In Group D, a strong Germany beat Argentina 28-23, which leaves the South American side battling to stay in the tournament along with Russia, who lost 31-28 to Denmark.

Russia and Argentina meet on January 24, with the winner staying in Qatar.

In the same group, Poland beat Saudi Arabia 32-13 to confirm the Saudis’ exit from the competition.

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