Final: France and Norway ready for another classic
19 Dec. 2021
No other teams have met more often in the IHF Women’s World Championship final than Norway and France, with 16% of the gold-medal games in the history of the competition featuring the two powerhouses.
Norway have won once and France secured the gold medal at Germany 2017, but the big question is who is going to come out unscathed this time, in Granollers, and write another page of history.
France vs Norway 17:30 CET
It was not a foregone conclusion, but after 106 matches at Spain 2021, France and Norway consistently found new ways to remain undefeated throughout the 25th IHF Women’s World Championship. Therefore, the two European powerhouses, which are two of the greatest teams in the last two decades in women’s handball, will have the chance to exert their domination once again on Sunday, in Granollers.
Since 1999, France have won five medals in the world handball flagship competition, with two gold medals and three silver medals, while Norway have secured seven medals, improving their all-time tally to 10, a record for the IHF Women’s World Championship.
At Spain 2021, the two sides face again in the final, for the fourth time in history, an all-time record for the pairing in the last act of the competition. Norway won two of those finals, at Denmark/Norway 1999 and at Brazil 2011, while France hope to emulate their win from Germany 2017, when they displayed a vintage defence to secure a 23:21 win.
It was the same gritty and sturdy defence that brought them in this place, created, developed and perfected by coach Olivier Krumbholz, one of the most successful masterminds in handball’s history. Krumbholz, who is synonymous with France’s ascension in the past 20 years, will definitely earn his 12th medal in major tournaments, having won the IHF Women’s World Championship and the EHF EURO twice each and the women’s handball tournament at the Olympic Games once.
Krumbholz only trails Sunday’s opponent, Thorir Hergeirsson, in the all-time coaching stats, as Hergeirsson has just secured his 13th medal since taking over for Marit Breivik as Norway women’s national team coach in 2009.
“Norway are one of the best, if not the top team on the planet right now. Therefore, we need to prepare and be careful,” said Krumbholz, after the 23:22 win against Denmark, in the semi-final.
But if such a successful team like France have a complex, it surely is one against Norway, a team that they have won against only three times in history and whom they have lost two IHF Women’s World Championship finals and one EHF EURO final, exactly one year ago, in Herning, Denmark, 20:22.
It was a difficult moment for France, but they bounced back admirably, sealing the gold medal at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and securing their best-ever start at the IHF Women’s World Championship over the past three weeks, winning all eight games on their way to the final.
In fact, with Norway also unbeaten, with seven wins and one draw against Sweden, this is the first time in the competition since the knockout format has been implemented in 1995, when two sides that have never dropped a game will face off for the great prize and following the Netherlands as the world champions.
“It is a true classic in women’s handball, I am very excited. I looked a bit at them during this competition, they are very good, therefore the match is completely open,” said Norway’s right back, Nora Mork, the top scorer of the Scandinavian side at Spain 2021, with 38 goals.
Mork was unusually quiet in the first matches in the competition but has morphed into an unstoppable force in the knock-out phase, scoring nine goals against RHF in the quarter-finals and eight times against Spain in the semi-finals. The 30-year-old right back is also the top assists provider for Norway, with 38, in the first eight matches of the competition.
The stakes are high for Norway, who are holding the record for the most medals won at the IHF Women’s World Championship, 10, but can also go joint-top with Russia as the most successful team in the history of the competition with four gold medals.
“It would be amazing, really, but the biggest motivation is to win a gold medal. Fullstop,” said Norway’s centre back, Stine Bredal Oftedal who, alongside left wing Camilla Herrem, can become only the 19th and 20th players to secure the gold medal three times.
A win would also seal Norway’s best performance in a single edition in the world handball flagship competition, which they have never won without dropping at game in the previous three editions, cementing their status as one of the best handball nations of all time.