Comeback queens Norway eliminate reigning world champions

13 Dec. 2021

Comeback queens Norway eliminate reigning world champions

Down by six goals in the first half, Norway completed a vintage comeback to seal the first place in Group II of the main round at Spain 2021, eliminating reigning world champions the Netherlands with a 37:34 win.

Courtesy of Norway’s win against the Netherlands and producing four wins and two draws until this point in the competition, Sweden joined their Scandinavian counterparts in the quarter-finals.

Netherlands vs Norway 34:37 (17:17)

Historically, the Netherlands were always conceding losses in crucial matches against Norway. It happened both in the final at Denmark 2015, in the EHF EURO final in 2016 and in the bronze-medal game at the Olympic Games Rio 2016.

But for 15 minutes in the final match of the main round at Spain 2021, the Netherlands purely forgot about the Norwegian complex and played their hearts out, producing better handball than they even displayed at Japan 2019, when they won the gold medal.

It started from defence, where Tess Wester frustrated the Norwegian players with her saves and right back Dione Housheer stole two of the four balls intercepted by the Netherlands. 

And it was in attack where everything clicked, as Norway’s defence was left dumbfounded by the amount of creativity and collective play displayed by the reigning world champions. By the 15th minute, Netherlands used two 3:0 unanswered runs to open an unbelievable 11:5 gap.

Norwegian pair of goalkeepers of Silje Solberg and Katrine Lunde did not save a shot until the 15th minute, as the golden dream of winning the IHF Women’s World Championship looked done and dusted for Norway.

Slowly, the Scandinavian side remembered that they beat this Netherlands team by 15 goals in a friendly game three weeks ago, 36:21, and started to be more clinical in attack. With Solberg boasting a six-save tally in the last 14 minutes of the first half, the Netherlands were starting to feel the pressure. 

It takes an experienced, confident and level-minded team to attempt a comeback and Norway basically ticks all those boxes. When the defence started to block the Netherlands, easy goals followed in attack. Therefore, the six-goal advantage boasted by the Netherlands by the 11th minute was gone by half-time, 17:17. As you were!

But Norway did not forget what brought them to this score and picked up exactly were they left off, jumping to a 25:21 lead, scoring eight goals in 12 minutes, with wings Malin Aune and Camilla Herrem and back Henny Reistad lighting up the scoreboard.

By the 48th minute, Reistad was already on nine goals and Herrem on seven, yet the Netherlands were still there, somehow, keeping track of every error from Norway and taking advantage with plenty of passes to the line player, Danick Snelder, who scored six goals throughout the game.

The two teams went back and forth, but the Netherlands could never find the resources to tie the game. They got to only one goal thrice in the last three minutes, but Norway always scored easily, be it with a powerful shot from Emilie Hegh Arntzen, through line player Maren Aardahl or something created by Nora Mork, who finished the match with eight goals.

Eventually, as back Inger Smits missed a one-on-one shot with Solberg, hitting the post, Norway sealed the 37:34 win, which helped them win the group and eliminated the Netherlands from the competition, ensuring a new world champion will be crowned at Spain 2021.

Norway will face RHF on Wednesday in the quarter-finals, while Sweden play against France with an eye on the semi-finals.

Disappointingly, the Netherlands, who lost only once in this competition, went out, despite producing an otherworldly performance in attack at Spain 2021, having scored 270 goals in six games.

hummel Player of the Match: Henny Reistad, Norway

Photo: RFEBM / Á. Bermejo