03 Jul. 2022
Over the last two editions of the IHF Women’s Junior (U20) World Championship, Norway have lost only two games of the 15 they played in the competition. The common denominator between those two losses? As difficult as it may sound for the Scandinavian powerhouse, it is Hungary, the team that Norway are about to face in Sunday’s final at Slovenia 2022.
Those two losses came at Hungary 2018, 27:35 in the group phase and 22:28 in the final, as Norway eye to avenge the loss from four years ago against a side that has thoroughly dominated the 23rd IHF Women’s Junior World Championship.
To win the gold medal for the second time in history and for the first time since 2010, Norway surely need a special game, both in attack and in defence, as any mistake could be heavily punished by their opponents.
However, the Scandinavian side might just be in luck, boasting one of the top players at Slovenia 2022. Left back Martine Karigstad Andersen has been nothing short of superb throughout the whole competition, leading the assists charts with 28 passes that lead to goals and adding 25 goals to her tally in the tournament, while also being named the MVP of the match on three occasions, including in the semi-final against the Netherlands.
“I am overwhelmed and truly happy to be here and try to win the gold medal. Our team has played very good throughout the whole tournament and securing another win against the Netherlands just helps us dream a bit more.
“Of course, the final will be difficult, but we will try to win it after Norway lost the game against Hungary four years ago, so we could finish the tournament undefeated and lift the trophy,” says Andersen.
The 20-year-old back has dazzled with her playmaking skills, but also her powerful shots, observers comparing her to a hybrid between Stine Bredal Oftedal and Henny Reistad, a player who can see the court and truly enhance her teammates in attack, but who can also boast a strong shot from the 9-metre line.
Indeed, Andersen fits the bill for Norway’s attractive brand of handball, looking in control all the time, irrespective of the score line or how dire the situation might be. She already looks ready to be slotted in the senior national team, despite the plethora of solutions already there at Thorir Hergeirsson’s disposal.
Her ascension has been superb over the past two years. Signed as a youngster by Vipers Kristiansand, she has been loaned to second-league team Randesund for the 2020/21 season and to Follo HK for the season that just finished.
Excellent games, which Vipers kept an eye on, helped Andersen to be called back to the team, where she will be playing for the Norwegian champions in the EHF Champions League Women.
“At Randesund, my coach was Kristine Lunde-Borgersen, who taught me a lot. Playing for one of the greats in Norway’s history really helped me progress as a player,” adds Andersen.
And progressing, that’s what she did. Being already earmarked as one of Norway’s players, the 20-year-old back had a stellar tournament at Slovenia 2022, being firmly in the mix for the All-star Team, irrespective of the result of the final.
Like at the senior level, Norway’s approach is more team-oriented, rather than on the individual side, as their best scorer, line player Kaja Rohne, is only 35th in the top scorer standings, with 32 goals, nearly half of the leader’s output, Czech Republic’s Charlotte Cholevova, who scored 62 times at Slovenia 2022.
But the sum of the parts really makes the team for Norway, as two of the best assist providers – Andersen and fellow back Maja Saeteren – are on the podium in that category.
Yet how does Andersen see herself? More of a sharpshooter or as a facilitator for her team?
“I like Henny Reistad a lot, the way she plays, shoots and creates chances,” says the 20-year-old.
Indeed, Andersen can follow in Reistad’s footsteps, as the Norwegian player has been the All-star left back at Hungary 2018, when she scored seven goals against Hungary in the final.
However, the left back can rewrite history and bring Norway their second gold medal in the competition at the IHF Women’s Junior World Championship, a feature achieved only by four teams until 2022.
But the Scandinavian side has never finished the competition undefeated, conceding a loss against the Republic of Korea in 2010, when they won the gold, with a strong side that featured goalkeeper Silje Solberg, backs Veronica Kristiansen, Stine Bredal Oftedal and Nora Mørk and wing Sanna Solberg.
“I would love to do that. I think we are strong enough and we can win the whole thing,” concludes Norway’s focal point in the attack.