Hockey World Cup: The “atypical situation” of an ex-Genevois, shunned star of the Blues

Hockey World Cup: The “atypical situation” of an ex-Genevois, shunned star of the Blues
Hockey World Cup: The “atypical situation” of an ex-Genevois, shunned star of the Blues

The French ice hockey team begins the world championships in the Czech Republic on Saturday with the objective of remaining in the elite. She will be able to count on the reinforcement of her best attacker Stéphane Da Costa, former player of Genève-Servette and deprived of selection in recent years.

Stéphane Da Costa, here with Ekaterinburg, has been playing in the KHL for several years.

IMAGO/SNA

After a long preparation concluded with a defeat against Germany (4-3, ap) on Monday, the Blues will get to the heart of the matter on Saturday (12:20 p.m.) against Kazakhstan in Ostrava for their first match of the 2024 World Cup (10 to 26 may). “We had good preparation. We still have two or three details to improve, but overall, the team is ready,” said Sacha Treille, captain of the France team on Thursday during a press conference.

In a tough group, notably made up of Germany, finalist last year, Latvia (3rd in 2023), the United States (4th) and Sweden (6th in the world ranking), Sacha Treille remains measured as for French ambitions, only the first four nations in the group progress to the quarters. “Our objective remains to maintain,” he assured since the two teams with the worst record of all the two groups of eight will be relegated at the end of this World Cup.

Da Costa turnaround

To achieve this objective, the Blues will be able to count on their two stars Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (39 years old), Seattle Kraken player in the NHL, and Stéphane Da Costa (34 years old), considered one of the best French players in history. , having played in particular under the colors of Genève-Servette during the 2017/2018 season.

Da Costa, striker for the Yekaterinburg club (KHL) in Russia since 2018, was banned from selection after the start of the war in Ukraine in 2022. His file was recently cleared, to the delight of his coach, Philippe Bozon.

“Stéphane Da Costa has been playing in Russia for a long time. He did not make the decision to settle there in a time frame which would have been subsequent to the start of the war of aggression that Russia is waging in Ukraine,” explained the Ministry of Sports in a press release published in the daily newspaper The Team to explain this turnaround. “He also finds himself in an atypical situation due to his sport. Few countries (…) allow you to perform at the highest international level.”

“I heaved a big sigh of relief,” Philippe Bozon said with a smile, when he knew he could select Da Costa again. “It’s a gold mine for our young people to have players (editor’s note: Da Costa and Bellemare) of this caliber with them. They give a lot of advice. Everyone wants to do well alongside them.”

Kazakhstan first important step

The coach will, however, be deprived of Alexandre Texier, player of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the NHL, another star of the team, because of an insurance problem. Added to his absence are those of Pierrick Dubé and Dylan Fabre.

The Blues World Cup will begin this Saturday with an opposition against Kazakhstan, a nation of a more or less similar level. “They have a lot of individual qualities, with players who play in the KHL (the Russian championship). We expect it to be a big match,” announced Sacha Treille.

“We will have to disturb them,” assured Philippe Bozon. “They are good technicians who don’t necessarily like to be rushed. We will have to attack them in the good sense of the word.” Winning this first match would mark an important first step towards remaining in the elite.

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