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30.12.2015, 11:30
Norway aim to put unsuccessful past behind them
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EHF EURO COUNTDOWN #1: After having exited the EHF EURO 2014 already after the preliminary round and also failing to qualify for the World Championship 2015, Norway long for more successful times
 

Norway aim to put unsuccessful past behind them

There has not been that much to celebrate in Norwegian men’s handball in the last couple of years. In January 2014 the team failed to make it past the preliminary round at the EHF EURO in Denmark and then lost to Austria in the play-offs for the World Championship 2015.

However, in the qualification to the Men’s EHF EURO 2016 the team bounced back, beat Croatia 27:26 at home and eventually qualified ranked second in Group 1 with five wins and one loss.

But while the will to improve is visible among the team, Norway face a huge challenge in Poland as they have been drawn to Group B alongside Croatia, Iceland and Belarus and would like face defending champions France and hosts Poland should they make it to the main round.

The team’s strength

Norway’s strongest assets are their wings and their line players as well as their playmaker Sander Sagosen.

On the right wing, Kristian Bjørnsen has often proven his value to the team, and this season he has amassed further international experience at club level playing in the VELUX EHF Champions League, being one of the key players for Swedish champions IFK Kristianstad.

On the opposite wing, Norway are also well equipped with André Lindboe and Magnus Jøndal. These wings will obviously be crucial when it comes to counter attacks which should – if all goes to Berge’s plans – be the result of a strong Norwegian defence.

And the defence does appear pretty reliable in their 6-0 formation built around Bjarte Myrhol and one of his line player colleagues, Magnus Gullerud or Petter Øverby. Those line players are not only important in defence, but also in the attack where Myrhol in particular is one of the aces up Christian Berge’s sleeve.

The team’s weakness

The biggest problem for Christian Berge will be his bench. As long as the expected starting line-up is on the court, Norway can match practically any opponent.

However, the six starting field players cannot play all the time in such a long tournament and the trouble may come when Berge has to make substitutions.

The Norwegian squad is simply missing some depth, and this will almost inevitably become a problem as the EHF EURO progresses.

Another weakness may – but not necessarily – be that Norway depend a lot on a 20-year-old. Sander Sagosen will have to play a great tournament as a playmaker as well as a shooter, if Norway are aiming for success in Poland.

That is a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of such a young player, and it will be interesting to see if he is up to the challenge.

The team’s star

Despite only being 20 years old, Sander Sagosen, the centre back from Aalborg Handball, is the star and main key player in the Norwegian side.

Ever since he jumped in the national team spotlight in a test tournament in November 2013, he has been a central player in the team and in the meantime he has gathered valuable experience at top level with Aalborg, in the EHF Champions League last season and in the EHF Cup this year.

The hidden gem

While Bjarte Myrhol is Norway’s star on the line, usually with Magnus Gullerud as his substitute, you should not forget to watch out for the third line player, Petter Øverby.

The 23-year-old has benefitted considerably from the experience he received in the VELUX EHF Champions League with Elverum this autumn, and the national team is also likely to benefit from that experience in Poland.

Øverby will be particularly important in defence, but he will also be a qualified stand-in on the line, especially in situations when Christian Berge might decide to play with two line players in the attack.

The outlook

Norway are likely to proceed from the preliminary round but they will have trouble going past the main round.

 


TEXT: Peter Bruun / ts
 
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