17 Dec. 2021
There were moments when they looked fragile, but for the eighth time in the last 13 editions of the IHF Women’s World Championship, Norway progressed to the final, after a hard-fought win against Spain, 27:21
The Scandinavian side will now face France on Sunday, aiming to tie Russia as the team with the most gold medals in the competition, four, after Norway’s wins in 1999, 2011 and 2015.
Hosts Spain, who fought admirably, but were left with little in the tank come the dying minutes of the game, were not able to double down on their semi-final win against Norway at Japan 2019 and will feature in the bronze-medal game against Denmark.
Norway vs Spain 27:21 (11:11)
When ‘Las Guerreras’ got to the Palau d'Esports de Granollers, the Spanish fans formed a guard of honour with fireworks and pyro, creating a hero’s welcome for their favourites. It surely buoyed a team who were trying to reach the final of the IHF Women’s World Championship for the second time in a row, yet the nerves were there to be felt.
However, there were no fireworks on the court for the first 15 minutes from the hosts, who only converted 35% of their shots, hitting a well-known wall in Norway’s goalkeeper Katrine Lunde, who was once against superb, in her 325th international match.
By the 16th minute, Spain were down 3:7, but they were in familiar territory, being in the exact same position three days ago, in the quarter-final against Germany, when they completed a superb turnaround to qualify for this do-or-die clash against Norway.
However, Norway are more experienced, have more depth and much more solutions to counter whatever their opponents throw at them than Germany. Yet, in such a game, when the hosts have over 5,000 fans behind them, experience can be overrated.
Sure enough, by half-time, Spain rode their luck, despite Lunde frustrating them time and time again, including when she saved a penalty from left wing Jennifer Gutierrez. The real change started to happen when Spain’s coach Jose Ignacio Prades changed his defensive system, deploying a 5-1 with 19-year-old Paula Arcos in front of her teammates by the 22nd minute.
Since that moment, Norway could only score three times, as Spain bounced back admirably, thanks to a collective effort in defence, which translated into goals scored via fast breaks. The deadlock was still on at the break, 11:11, the nerves were gone and the fireworks were back there.
But not for long. As soon as the second half threw off, Norway were back to their absolute best, albeit for a small hiccup, when Spain cancelled a 3:0 Norwegian run, despite being hit with a suspension for centre back Silvia Arderius.
It was 15:14 after 38 minutes and Norway were pinned down once again, looking vulnerable. However, in the next 11 minutes, they limited the hosts to only two goals, deploying another 7:2 run to extend their lead to 22:16, thanks to Nora Mork’s efforts and Katrine Lunde’s saves.
The second-most experienced player in the tournament, Lunde, who is 41 years old, delivered a complete performance, for which she received the hummel Player of the Match Award, with 13 saves for a 38% efficiency, that basically stopped Spain in their tracks. In crucial moments, for example when Norway were two players down due to suspensions, Lunde rose to the occasion and made sure that her side were not backing down, frustrating Spain and their fans.
With such an experienced side boasting a six-goal lead late in the game, the point of no return for Spain was hit, especially as their attack produced a championship-high 16 turnovers, as Norway really amped up their defence for this game.
Eventually, after Spain continued to rack up misses, Norway sealed a huge win, 27:21, avenging their defeat from the semi-final at Japan 2019, against Spain, and qualified for the final of the IHF Women’s World Championship for the eighth time in the last 13 editions. There, they will face France, in a rematch of last December’s Women’s EHF EURO 2020 final.
The Scandinavian side also secured their 30th medal at major international tournaments, extending their unparalleled record, while also having the chance to tie Russia as the all-time leader at the IHF Women’s World Championship, with four gold medals.
On the other hand, the hosts, who lost their first game in this World Championship, after a seven-match winning streak, face Denmark in their quest to win a medal in the competition on home soil, having less than two days to overcome the disappointment from Friday evening.
hummel Player of the Match: Katrine Lunde, Norway