Machine-like efficiency powers Norway into the semi-finals

15 Dec. 2021

Machine-like efficiency powers Norway into the semi-finals

Norway sealed their fourth consecutive semi-final berth – and their seventh at the last eight editions of the IHF Women’s World Championship – after a comprehensive 34:28 win against RHF in the battle of the most decorated teams in history in the competition.

The Scandinavian side will now face hosts Spain in a crunch semi-final, while the RHF will be eighth in the final standings, their worst performance in the competition since 1999.

Norway vs RHF 34:28 (19:15)

Conceding 19 goals in the first half of a IHF Women’s World Championship quarter-final match is virtually synonymous with elimination from the competition, but the RHF team had little to show against Norway, who ran riot for the first 30 minutes.

It took a plethora of factors for Norway to display such ruthless efficiency, chief of which was the inability of the RHF goalkeepers to stop their shots, as Anastasiia Lagina and Polina Kaplina each saved one shot, with the Scandinavian side finishing the first part of the match with an otherworldly 83% shooting efficiency.

But it was also Norway’s outstanding depth, creativity and plenty of teamwork, with 14 from their 19 goals coming from assists, six of which were delivered by the core of their attack, centre back Stine Bredal Oftedal.

It was not a vintage performance from the Scandinavian side, rather than a job perfectly executed, with their 4:0 run between the second and fifth minute setting the tone for what ensued.

Facing a young RHF team, who needed permanent instructions from coach Liudmila Bodnieva, who frequently conducted huddles with her players during the game, Norway displayed the usual machine-like efficiency. 

Ready to avenge the two consecutive losses from the bronze-medal game at Japan 2019 and the painful semi-final at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, which denied them a chance for the gold medal, the Scandinavian side seemed to be cruising to the win.

But after scoring only twice in the first eight minutes of the second half, coach Thorir Hergeirsson sensed something was amiss, with the flawless attacking game from the first half disappearing into thin air. 

His perfect timing in calling a time-out was exactly the ingredient needed to recharge Norway’s batteries, as another 4:0 run, mirroring the one from the first half, basically ended the RHF’s pursuit for the win, as the reigning European champions jumped to a 26:20 lead, much to the joy of their fans present in Granollers.

Individually, star right back Nora Mork, the hummel Player of the Match, had her best outing in the competition after somewhat of a hit-and-miss game against the Netherlands, being a key cog in Norway’s well-oiled machine, scoring nine goals and dishing four assists.

Despite a late attempt for a comeback in the last 10 minutes of the game, when they used a 6:2 run to cut the gap to only five goals (25:30), the RHF could not derail Norway’s challenge for their fourth consecutive semi-final at the world handball flagship event.

Eventually, the Scandinavian side enjoyed a thorough 34:28 win, not their biggest in history against their archrivals, or a win like the one in the quarter-finals at Germany 2017, 34:17, but enough to prove why they are one of the teams to beat at Spain 2021.

Norway extended their unbeaten streak at Spain 2021 to seven games, six of which were wins, boasting their best start at the IHF Women’s World Championship since Italy 2001, when they went undefeated in the final, only to concede a loss against Russia.

Their path to the final crosses the one of another unbeaten team in this tournament, hosts Spain, who won all of their seven games coming in the final weekend in Granollers, in a clash that will surely be one of the highlights of the tournament.

On the other hand, RHF will now finish eighth, due to winning less points in the main round than any other qualified team in the knockout phase at Spain 2021. This will be the worst finish for the RHF in the IHF Women’s World Championship since Denmark/Norway 1999, when they finished 12th. 

hummel Player of the Match: Nora Mork, Norway