Norway unstoppable against previously unbeaten Netherlands

GROUP II REVIEW: Norway are still in with a chance for the final weekend of the EHF EURO 2018 in Paris, after they recorded a breath-taking 29:16 win against the Netherlands

Norway have kept their semi-final hopes alive - but will they also celebrate on Wednesday. Photo: Kolektiff Images

When the Norwegian handball machine is switched on, there are few teams who can stop them. The previously unbeaten Netherlands learnt that the hard way, as Norway left them with no chance, taking a superb 29:16 win.

There is surely a Norwegian complex for the Dutch side, who has lost the last seven matches in a row against Thorir Hergeirsson’s side.

However, Norway’s fate is still out of their hands. They must win against Spain on Wednesday, but they will still be out if both Romania (against Hungary) and Netherlands (against Hungary) get at least one point in their respective matches.

Netherlands vs Norway 16:29 (7:15)

There were layers over layers for this match, like a beautifully baked cake, as Netherlands were trying to hand Norway the first loss in mutual games since 1999 and eliminate the title holders, who would have been out of contention for a medal for the first time in 18 years.

Despite Nycke Groot returning to the fold after clearing the concussion protocol, Netherlands had their worst start of any match at the EHF EURO 2018, needing seven minutes and 22 seconds to score their first goal, while a Stine Oftedal-led Norwegian side jumped to a 4:1 lead.

Norway looked like a different team compared to the one that lost in the preliminary round against Germany and Romania, with the prospect of elimination hanging over their head.

And they also had a superb Katrine Lunde between the goal posts, as the veteran Norwegian shot stopper had nine saves in the first half, with a 56% save efficiency. Lunde ended up with 13 saves - and deserved the Player of the Match award.

Usually, when the Norwegian defence is superb, the attack follows. And it happened exactly the same this time, with everything clicking for the title holders, who jumped to a 15:7 lead at half-time. 

Not even two time-outs from Netherlands’ coach Helle Thomsen could change anything, as her team looked jaded and tired after a four-game winning streak to throw off the tournament.

As Thomsen constantly changed her troops, nothing seemed to work. Norway had scored twice as much as the Dutch team by taking a 22:11 lead in the 41st minute. 

With the goal difference a possibly deciding factor if more teams finish level on points in the final group standings, Norway continued to push and cruised to a 29:16 win in the end.

“We did not perform so well in the preliminary round, but now we found back our style,” Norway coach Thorir Hergeirsson said. “Netherlands have very good players. We wanted to play fast and we did exactly just that and won.”

The Dutch side will still progress to the semi-final with at least a draw against Germany on Wednesday. On the other side, Norway can still be in Paris for the final weekend if they win against Spain in the first match on Wednesday, but they must wait and hope for other results to fall into place.

“We know that the game against Germany tomorrow is decisive and we will focus on that,” Dutch centre back Maura Visser said. “Norway is the best team in the world on fast breaks and they punished us.”

written by Adrian Costeiu / ew