Williams upbeat despite France handball defeat

29 July 2012 / 23:10

Great Britain men's handball Olympic debut ended in a resounding 44-15 defeat to reigning gold medallists France, but playmaker Ciaran Williams is not allowing that to take the shine off his night.

Having only formed in 2006, Team GB have been on a turbulent journey to get to London 2012 and as a result, their main goal of the competition is to gain top-level experience rather than progress to the next stage.

France have swept aside all before them over the last few years and are both Olympic and world champions, so anything but a comprehensive victory would have been a severe shock. As it was they ran riot, but playing in front of a home crowd and realising his Olympic dream was enough for 24-year-old Williams.

"The reception at the start was amazing and I can't thank the crowd enough for everything they did," he told Press Association Sport. "It was always going to be tough against the best team on the planet, possibly the best team ever to have played the game.

"For the first 20 minutes and then 10 minutes in the second half we played well and everything came together but it is difficult to maintain it against players of that experience and quality for 60 minutes. Hopefully the crowd will see our passion and how much it meant to us. Whether we are losing by two or 20, we celebrate every goal and fight right to the end.

"Personally I am not very happy with my own performance but it was never going to be easy. We would have liked to have kept the score a bit closer but we have already said our focus are the games later in the competition."

There were some positives for Great Britain to take from the game as for the opening 20 minutes they put in an inspired performance and at one point only trailed by three goals while pivot Robin Garnham bagged six times in a fine showing. And coach Dragan Djukic admits that his side's start was the best they have played.

"The atmosphere was fantastic and really for the first 20 minutes we played our best handball ever," he said. "Unfortunately it was not enough, but at this moment we have something to build on and take into the next few games. Unfortunately we were playing against one of the best teams ever in handball history."

France's defence of the gold medal they won in Beijing four years ago could not have started in a better way and although they will face much harder tasks in the rest of the tournament, coach Claude Onesta insists they played this game at full pelt.

"We took this game as any other at a tournament of this calibre," he said. "It wasn't a training exercise for us as we were confronted by a young and enthusiastic Britain team who were making their Olympic dream a reality."