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12.11.2015, 09:46
Norway have to find their killer instinct
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EHF EURO INSIGHTS: Norway’s coach Christian Berge has plenty of options for his EHF EURO team, but his men can still learn from the nation’s women’s team
 

Norway have to find their killer instinct

A 32:29 win against France saved Norway from finishing last in the Golden League they hosted last week.

Such a ranking would not have shown a correct picture of a Norwegian team that actually played well, but who lacked the ability to decide their matches at the end in their favour.

In their match against Iceland, Norway threw away a clear lead and lost by one, and also against France they were at one point close to losing after having been in control of the game.

It seems as if Norway are missing ‘killer instinct’, the ability to finish the job in matches they are  dominating.

In this area, Norway’s men could probably learn from the female team who has this quality almost to perfection.

It is not that Norway do not have great players. In fact, coach Christian Berge has good options for all positions.

Goalkeepers

Norway’s first choice keeper was not present at the Golden League. Ole Erevik was excused for personal reasons, but this gave Espen Christensen from Danish GOG the chance to shine.

He very much did so and further he had a brilliant back-up in Torbjørn Bergerud from Swedish HF Lugi.

If we add Magnus Dahl and Morten Nergaardm who are both gathering EHF Champions League experience in Skjern and Elverum, the goalkeeper position should not cause Berge any sleepless nights.

Right wing

Kristian Bjørnsen has played a tremendous season so for at IFK Kristianstad, and he has been equally brilliant in the national team where he excelled in attack as well as in the team’s counter phases and from the penalty line.

However, Berge may have to worry a bit about a substitute for Bjørnsen. Thomas Kristensen, who was supposed to be first in line for the job, did not exactly make a convincing impression at the Golden League.

Left wing

Norway have been searching for a left wing at international level ever since Håvard Tvedten ended his national team career – now, they seem to have had him all the time.

Magnus Jøndal had his first appearances for his country back in 2009, but after joining league winners Arendal this summer, the 27-year-old seems to be at the peak of his career.

Jøndal now makes a reliable impression in all aspects of the game – defence, counter attacks and established attacking play.

As substitute, Stain Brevik from Danish league club Aarhus Haandbold recommends himself well.

Right back

In his second season with Rhein-Neckar Löwen, Harald Reinkind enjoys much more time on court, in the Bundesliga as well as in the VELUX EHF Champions League, than he did last season.

Norway benefitfrom a more experienced and confident Reinkind, and as his back-up, Kent Ronbin Tønnesen from Füchse Berlin appears to be an absolutely acceptable option.

Centre back

The playmaker position is prone to produce a smile on Berge’s face, and on the faces of all Norwegian handball fans.

In this position, Norway simply have one of the greatest handball talents in the world: Sander Sagosen.

Since joining Danish top club Aalborg Handball in 2014, the 20-year-old playmaker has continued his explosive development at both ends of the court.

And whenever Sagosen needs to be substituted, Berge has another extremely talented player to send on: Christian O´Sullivan, who has been playing a great season for Kristianstad so far.

Left back

This position is a more difficult one for Norway, who have not had a left back at international top level since Kristian Kjelling’s farewell.

Of course, it has been a help that Erlend Mamelund returned to the national team after joining THW Kiel earlier this autumn, but right now he does not really seem to fill the position’s shoes, and neither does the alternative, Espen Lie Hansen.

Line player

In this position, on the other hand, Christian Berge really has a luxury problem.

His first choice is Bjarte Myrhol, at the age of 33 still one of the best in the world on the line. His change from Rhein-Neckar Löwen to Skjern did not harm him, and he appears as good as ever at both ends of the court.

His substitutes also hold high quality. Magnus Gullerud, who earns his living in SønderjyskE in the Danish league, has already caught the eye of several Bundesliga clubs, and Peter Øverbø has obviously benefited from joining Elverum HH and getting EHF Champions League experience there.

The mental aspect

So, all in all, Christian Berge does not seem to have many worries before nominating his squad for the EHF EURO 2016.

His biggest challenge may actually be the mental aspect – his team’s troubles to close the games, in which they are actually heading for a win.

This phenomenon was visible before, and it appeared again at the Golden League last week.

It is as if the players sometimes become afraid of playing when they can spot the win, and Berge will have to solve this issue.

If he can do that, his team will take a large step towards a successful EHF EURO 2016 – a success Norway really long for after missing out on the World Championship in Qatar earlier this year.


TEXT: Peter Bruun / ts
 
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