16 Dec. 2020
Five matches remain at the Women’s EHF EURO 2020 in Denmark in a competition that has already provided underdog surprises and thrilling matches.
Only one 2019 IHF Women’s World Championship semi-finalist – Norway – has progressed to the final weekend in Herning. The 2016 EHF EURO winners are joined by Croatia, Denmark and France.
Despite missing out on a medal at Japan 2019, Norway have bounced back and boast a perfect record at the EHF EURO 2020 so far and with that, they secured an early semi-final berth. This is the fifth time in their history, the Nordic powerhouse have not lost a game before the semi-finals, as they went on to winning the tournament after flawless starts in 1998, 2004, 2006 and 2016.
With the tournament’s top scorer Nora Mørk back after two devastating injuries, Norway have scored 205 goals, a record for the first six games at the EHF EURO, whilst conceding only 136 goals, boasting the best attack and best defence in the competition.
Dominating Group II, Norway beat world champions the Netherlands 32:25, Croatia 36:25 and Hungary 32:21 in the main round, having won every game by at least eight goals throughout the competition.
It will be a Nordic showdown in the second semi-final, as Denmark have progressed to the EHF EURO final weekend for the first time since 2016.
The Danish side had a must-win game against Russia on Tuesday, which they won emphatically, 30:23, knocking the Japan 2019 bronze medalists out of contention, completing a main round sweep, after defeating Sweden 24:22 and Japan silver medalists Spain 34:24.
The two sides have already met in an EHF EURO semi-final, ten years ago, also in Herning, where Norway took a resounding win, 29:19.
EHF EURO title holders France are also in great shape, as they extended their unbeaten run at the EHF EURO to 12 games, winning Group I after two wins, 26:25 against Spain and 31:25 against Sweden, and a draw against Russia, 28:28.
France will face underdog Croatia in the first semi-final, as the Croatians secured their best-ever result at the EHF EURO.
In spite of their 25:36 loss against Norway, Croatia progressed to the final weekend after two wins, 25:20 against Romania and 23:20 against Germany, with a mix of gritty defence and efficient attack.
World champions the Netherlands paid the price for their two losses in the group phase, against Serbia, 25:29, and Croatia, 25:27. Despite winning their last two games in the main round against Germany, 28:27, and Romania, 35:24, Emannuel Mayonnade’s side failed to progress to the semi-finals – a feat they had achieved at every major championship since the 2015 IHF Women’s World Championship.
The Netherlands will face Russia in the 5/6 placement match on Friday, a rematch of the electric Japan 2019 semi-final, which the Dutch won, 33:32.
Croatia, Denmark, France and Norway have also secured their berths for the IHF Women’s World Championship in December 2021, joining world champions the Netherlands and hosts Spain.
The two semi-finals will take place on Friday, 18 December, with the winner being crowned on Sunday, 20 December.
More information on the Women’s EHF EURO 2020 can be found on the official website.
PHOTO: European Handball Federation