29 Nov. 2021
One of the big favourites to seal the gold medal at the 25th IHF Women’s World Championship, Norway, capped off a good end of the week, securing the Intersport Cup, a friendly tournament featuring RHF, the Republic of Korea and reigning world champions, the Netherlands.
The four teams featured in a round-robin tournament, playing against each other on 25, 27 and 28 November. Norway took two wins in their first two games, with a superb defensive display and undeterred attacking consistency, but lost against RHF.
The Scandinavian side started the tournament in superb fashion, taking a commanding 36:21 win against the reigning world champions, the Netherlands, after dominating the game from start to finish. A 19:11 score line at the break was improved in the second half, as coach Thorir Hergeirsson gave a chance to all the players in the roster, with left wing Sanna Solberg Isaksson being the top scorer of the game with seven goals.
Norway also registered a big win in the second game, but Korea hampered their efforts until the 35th minute. The European champions went down 11:13 at the break, but made a flawless comeback, taking a 35:23 win with an otherworldly 24:10 partial in the second half. Another left wing, Camilla Herrem, was the game’s best scorer with seven goals.
However, Sunday featured a difficult game against RHF. Norway went down 12:15 at the break and were in the position to mount a comeback, only to falter in the dying seconds of the game as the Russian side sealed the win with a last-gasp goal.
Despite the 27:28 loss, Norway secured the general classification as they won the three-way tie with the Netherlands and RHF thanks to a superior goal difference (+14). RHF finished second, with a -2 goal difference, with the Dutch side third, -12.
“It is useful for us. It is good to have played against difficult opponents. We must continue to build our team,” said Thorir Hergeirsson, Norway’s national coach to Norwegian TV station TV2.
After their heavy defeat in the first game, the Netherlands bounced back and secured second place, with two clear wins, 32:29 against RHF and 41:25 against Korea.
While missing key players like Nycke Groot from the team that struck gold at Japan 2019, the Dutch side still look like an experienced side and a tough nut to crack, but will need more from the top scorer of the previous IHF Women’s World Championship, Lois Abbingh, and a better all-around defensive display.
They have also welcomed back left back Estavana Polman, who returned after a lengthy injury, scoring twice against RHF, being selected for the 18-player roster which will travel to Spain.
Left wing Camilla Herrem was the tournament’s top scorer with 16 goals.
Norway throw off their Spain 2021 campaign on Friday 3 December with a match against Kazakhstan. They will also face Iran and Romania in Group C.
The Scandinavian side and the Netherlands could face off in the main round of the competition, if both sides qualify. The Dutch side will also make their debut on 3 December in Group E, which features Sweden, Puerto Rico and Uzbekistan.
Spain set to compete at home
Another four-team friendly tournament, the XXIV Torneo Internacional de España, took place this weekend in Madrid, showcasing four European teams, including the hosts, Spain, who eye to replicate their form from Japan 2019, when they won the silver medal.
‘Las Guerreras’, fresh from a coaching change this autumn, after Jose Ignacio Prades took over from Carlos Viver, delivered two superb performances against Poland and Slovakia, eventually winning the tournament after a resilient game against Germany.
The Spanish side started the tournament with a bang, a 35:15 win against Slovakia, boosted by a six-goal outing from left wing Jennifer Gutierrez. On the second day, they powered to a 32:25 win against Poland, with the cherry on top on Sunday, 28 November, after a 23:22 win against Germany.
Therefore, with only a couple of days left before the start of the 25th IHF Women’s World Championship, Spain are in good spirits, also boasting the top goal scorer of the friendly tournament, left wing Jennifer Gutierrez, who scored 12 times. Right wing Carmen Martin added 11 goals.
“I am very happy with what our team delivered on the court. The results were not that important, rather than our play, which was fluid. In defence, we had a good understanding and we were aggressive,” said Spain’s coach, Jose Ignacio Prades to the Royal Spanish Handball Federation website.
Germany finished second, courtesy of their 32:25 win against Slovakia and 31:27 win against Poland, with plenty to figure out for coach Henk Groener before the start of Spain 2021, where they face Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in Group E.
Meanwhile, Poland finished third with their 35:24 win against Slovakia on the last day of the competition, handing the Slovakian side the last place with a -37 goal difference over three days, just before making their Women’s World Championship comeback after 26 years.
Photo: Beate Oma Dahle / NTB