Quarter-finals: All-time greats face off in fiery clash

15 Dec. 2021

Quarter-finals: All-time greats face off in fiery clash

A fiery rivalry is set to be rekindled in Granollers on Wednesday evening, as the two teams with the largest number of gold medals won in history at the IHF Women’s World Championship are colliding in the quarter-finals. Norway have won the world title three times and can tie RHF, the leader of the all-time standings in the competition at Spain 2021.

Four years ago, at Germany 2017, Norway secured the largest-ever win against the Russia side, 34:17, in the quarter-finals, but since that loss, the RHF delivered two heavy blows to the Scandinavian powerhouse, most recently this summer, in the semi-finals at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

Norway vs RHF 17:30 CET

The last two matches between Norway and the RHF team – in the bronze-medal game at Japan 2019 and in the semi-final at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – ended in tears for the Scandinavian powerhouse, who saw their medal dreams in tatters both times. 

RHF have become somewhat of a nuisance for the almighty Norway, including in the last game of the friendly Intersport Cup tournament three weeks ago, when the Scandinavian side conceded a 28:29 loss.

In fact, Norway’s last win against their big rivals came at Germany 2017, when in the same quarter-finals phase, Thorir Hergeirsson’s side took their largest win ever against the archrivals, 34:17.

“We are here to avenge those defeats and absolutely ready to give everything we got against Russia,” said Norway’s back, Henny Reistad, who received the hummel Player of the Match award after their 37:34 win against the Netherlands, in the last game of the main round phase, after a nine-goal outing.

Yet this is an entirely new RHF team from the one that sealed the silver medal at Tokyo 2020 just last summer. Stalwarts like backs Daria Dmitrieva and Anna Vyakhireva took a leave of absence, a sabbatical year from handball, while young players have been ushered into a squad which is balanced by experienced players like back Ekaterina Ilina or captain Olga Fomina.


A new coach has also been brought in to supervise the rebuild, the MVP of the 2005 IHF Women’s World Championship, Liudmila Bodnieva.

“It's true that we played with another team (in Tokyo), the Russian team has already changed more than half a squad, so it's history. The Olympic Games are over.

“Of course, we don't forget – I count on the players who are not in the squad today and who are not in Spain. I mean, [they are] some players who are really experienced and still in handball but they took a pause or another reason.
I believe that when they will be back, [combined with] the girls who are now in Spain, it should be a really good mix. The experienced players have a lot of experience with big, big tournaments and players who already felt this passion of big handball,” said Bodnieva.

While Norway are one of the five teams that have yet to concede a loss at Spain 2021, RHF won only once in the main round, 31:25 against Montenegro, while drawing against Slovenia (26:26) and losing the final match against France (28:33).

Their form has been full of ups and downs, but those mistakes have to be corrected, as Norway have the third most powerful attack in the competition, scoring 230 goals in their first six games, just behind the Netherlands (270) and Sweden (244).

Whoever wins this game will face hosts Spain in the semi-final, after ‘Las Guerreras’ won their quarter-final against Germany, 26:21.

Photo (top): RFEBM / Á. Bermejo