When Norway returned to winning ways in style
When Norway returned to winning ways in style
It is truly a joy to re-watch some of the greats at work and this is exactly what this series is about, especially when featuring Norway.
The Nordic side has revolutionised women’s handball in the past two decades, winning the EHF EURO seven times, constantly evolving and bringing up new talented players.
Their most recent win, in 2016, came with eight wins out of eight games. But two years prior they had to suffer through some games, but their grit and talent ultimately won.
The result marked a return to the throne for Norway, who had been beaten to the title by Montenegro in 2012.
For the second time ever, Spain progressed to the final of the EHF EURO in 2014, eight years after also meeting Norway in the 2008 gold medal match, one of the most lopsided finals ever (34:21).
Surely, Spain were once again underdogs, as history tends to repeat itself, with Norway standing once again between them and the gold medal.
After losing in the main round phase against Norway (29:26), the Spanish side was eager to avenge all the previous painful losses, yet Thorir Hergeirrson’s powerhouse was once again in form.
Prior to the final, Norway lost only one game - against co-hosts Hungary when they were already confirmed as group winners - and steamrolled their way into the last act of the competition with a 29:25 win against Sweden in the semi-final.
Spain had learned their lesson the hard way in the past games against Norway and enjoyed a bright start, taking an early three-goal lead, which they held until the end of the first half, 12:10.
However, Norway starting pounding in the second half and the game was decided between the 43rd and the 48th minute with a 4:0 run for the Scandinavian side, which featured two goals by Linn-Kristin Riegelhuth Koren.
It was game over for Spain, despite a comeback attempt, which saw them reduce the deficit to just one goal (26:25), only for Norway to finish off the game with two unanswered goals, 28:25, as Spain never scored in the last five minutes.
Player of the match – Linn-Kristin Riegelhuth Koren (Norway)
For most of the tournament the Norwegian right wing had been searching for her top form, scoring only 23 goals until the final match against Spain.
But she bounced back in superb style exactly when her team needed her the most, scoring 10 goals from 10 shots, a flawless game that lifted Norway to another superb win.
Her partnership with right back Nora Mørk – seven goals from nine shots – was the key that unlocked the path for Norway to winning the gold medal.
Unsung hero – Silje Solberg (Norway)
Riegelhuth Koren and Mørk might have accounted for 17 of Norway’s 28 goals during the final against Spain, goalkeeper Silje Solberg was nothing short of outstanding in the game.
The All-star Team goalkeeper, part of the silver-medal winning team two years earlier, made 15 saves against Spain for an otherworldly 41 per cent save efficiency, that ultimately helped the Norwegian side claim the 28:25 win.
“I didn’t expect anything from this championship and I am so proud that my team and I have made it so far. We just had faith in ourselves,” – Silje Solberg, Norway’s goalkeeper.
Despite their roster full of experienced players, Norway’s confidence was not skyrocketing after losing the EHF EURO 2012 final two years ago. However, in the defining moments, the Norwegian side showed their mettle and enjoyed their sixth gold medal at the EHF EURO.
Play of the day
Norway were down by one goal and had a player less on the court due to a suspension, but Nora Mørk’s goal was crucial. From the tightest of angles, the diminutive right back got a superb assist from Stine Oftedal and made Silvia Navarro pay with an intelligent shot.
After winning the gold medal four consecutive times, Norway failed to defend their title in 2012 against Montenegro. But they came back roaring and were superb in the EHF EURO 2014, losing only one game on their way to the final. They extended their winning streak two years later, when they won the title for a record seventh time, yet their golden generation was starting its zenith, as Linn-Kristin Riegelhuth Koren or Karoline Dyhre Breivang were heading to retirement.
On the other hand, Spain suffered huge disappointment twice as they finished only 11th and 12th respectively in the next two EHF EURO tournaments. However, a resurgent Spanish side led by coach Carlos Viver emerged in 2019 to finish second at the IHF World Championships in Japan.
Norway have missed the final only three times out of 13 EHF EURO tournaments: in 1994, 2000 and 2018.