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French crowned handball champions
24 Aug 2008 10:23 BST

France claimed a glorious gold in the men's handball after a dominant display to easily defeat Iceland 28-23.

The Icelanders had been looking to win their first-ever Olympic gold, but had to settle for matching the silver they won in the triple jump in 1956.

Alexander Petersson and his Icelandic team-mates battled hard but France's Thierry Omeyer was in outstanding form.

Spain beat defending champions Croatia 35-29 to win their third men's handball bronze medal in four Olympic Games.

It is a hugely welcome gold for France, after they crashed out in Athens four years ago in the quarter-finals having been red-hot favourites.

"In the final minute I looked at my team-mates, you could see victory in their eyes," said French left-back Nikola Karabatic.

"We knew we had done it, we had finally won at the Olympic Games. That joy defies description."

With the French defence holding tight, Iceland rarely threatened to get close to France's tally, but they will be happy to have equalled their country's highest Olympic achievement by just making the final.

Iceland's Vilhjálmur Einarsson claimed a silver medal in the triple jump at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956.

The Icelandic handball team's Olympic debut was in 1972 when it finished 12th and they grabbed a fourth place in 1992. Beijing was their 10th appearance at the Games.

"We are only 300,000 people," Gudmundur Ingvarsson, president of the Iceland Handball Federation, said. "What do you expect?"

And Iceland coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson added: "It was a strange moment after losing the game. We had to put it in perspective and think we really didn't lose the gold medal, we won the silver."

In the bronze medal match, a seven-goal haul from left-wing Juan Garcia and a solid defensive effort gave the Spanish the edge.

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