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France wins Olympic men's handball gold
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France prevailed dark horse Iceland 28-23 on Sunday to win its first ever Olympic gold medal in men's handball.

Both teams paid much attention to their defence at the beginning of the game, tying 2-2 eight minutes into the match. The Icelanders, who were known for their sharp attack, appeared nail-biting in front of French solid defending line, with their top scorer Snorri Steinn Gudjonsson only netting once before the break.

The French side launched a 5-0 surge midway into the first half to build up their advantage. Left back Nikola Karabatic, newly elected IHF World Handball Player of the Year in 2007, converted four goals from four shots to give "Les bleus" a 15-10 lead.

Karabatic continued his sound shape after the game resumed, added another four points to top the scoring list. The five points' margin was retained till the end of the game.

France's previous best Olympic showing was a bronze in the 1992 Barcelona Games, but it won the European title in 2006 and world championship title in 1995 and 2001.

Being an underdog in the handball world, Iceland had taken part in Olympic handball tournaments for five times, with the best placing being the fourth in 1992 in Barcelona.

The silver was not only the Icelanders' first Olympic handball medal, but also the only medal earned by the Nordic country in Beijing.

The bronze medal went to Spain, who upset defending champion Croatia 35-29.

(Xinhua News Agency August 24, 2008)

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