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Norway stun Netherlands to reach for another gold medal. - Photo: Stephane Pillaud

Norway machine keeps rolling…into the final

Germany 2017: Title holders unstoppable against 2015 runners-up.

Just under 12,000 fans witnessed a handball masterclass from Thorir Hergeirsson’s Norwegian team as they ripped apart Netherlands’ dreams of finally overcoming their arch-nemesis, winning 32:23.

 

SEMI-FINALS

Barclaycard Arena, Hamburg

Netherlands vs Norway 23:32 (10:17)

Ahead of the game, both coaches had played down previous results between the two which had seen Norway beat their European opponents in the final stages of the last three major tournaments, but the past was evident on court for at least the Norwegians as they paid homage to their fast-paced teams of the past – something that Hergeirsson had worked on after he felt Netherlands had outpaced his side in their most recent defeat, at the Women’s EHF EURO 2016 final in December.

Evidence of this came very early on: Netherland’s Nycke Groot’s turned over the ball at 5:1 down, with 8 minutes 27 seconds on the clock. Four seconds later, Norway captain Stine Oftedal sunk home. 6:1. Next play, another Groot turnover with 9:52 on the clock. This time, Kari Brattset sunk home six seconds later. 7:1

It did not start well for Helle Thomsen’s team in orange as their first attack was saved and their second, saw a technical fault – by the 12th minute, Norway were 8:1 up and Netherlands had taken two time-outs. “I took the second time-out because there were too many things to say for one time-out,” admitted Thomsen to the media after the game. “Actually, I wanted to have two minutes for the first time-out.”

With a seven-goal lead at the break (17:10), Norway were never in danger of being caught as Hergeirsson used 13 of his 16 squad players, preferring to leave out Helen Gigstad Fauske, Emilie Christensen and Marit Rosberg Jacobsen. After going 10-up in the 52nd minute thanks to Emilie Arntzen (30:20), the lead kept nudging double figures right until the end. Nora Mork top-scored with eight for Norway, while Laura van der Heijden grabbed five for Netherlands.

“Thanks to Netherlands for a new fight in the finals,” said Norway coach Thorir Hergeirsson in the post-match press conference. “We have had several games against them in recent years, but today we started well in our defence and our goalkeeper which, maybe, made our game, along with our fast-breaks.

“The second half was a good game, more even but I think we controlled it OK,” he continued. “We look forward to the final on Sunday and we wish Netherlands team best of luck in their bronze medal match.”

“We don’t choose our opponent in the final, we take the opponent we get. The best team between France and Sweden will play in the final against us. I have no preference to which teams, both teams are fantastic teams, so it will be tough – it’s best to focus on ourselves.”

“Norway played really well, and it was a really difficult match for us,” said Helle Thomsen, Netherlands coach. “At the beginning they had high speed, but all the things we talked about in the locker room before they couldn’t handle it and they were much better than us – I think everybody could see that and when Norway play like that they are very far away from us. It was a good match for them and I can say good luck to them in the final.”

“It was much closer in the second half, but we had already played such a good game in the first half. I just want to say good luck in the bronze final,” said Norway’s Vilde Ingstad in the post-match conference.

Netherlands player Laura van der Heijden could only praise their opponents. “We didn’t really have an answer against them in defence,” she said. “I wish them good luck in the final too.”

Player of the match presented by adidas: Nora MORK (NOR)