Disappointing 4th place for Norwegian women in handball World Cup

Photo: International Handball Federation
Emilie Hegh Arntzen (left) and Malin Larsen Aune (right) embrace in disappointment after losing the World Cup Handball bronze medal game to Russia, 33-28, in Japan. Arntzen and Stine Bredal Oftedal each scored seven goals in the final game, while Aune tallied four. Norway lost only once in group play and won three more games in the main round to reach the semifinals, where they lost to Spain.

Jo Christian Weldingh

Norway ended up in a somewhat disappointing fourth place in this year’s IHF World Cup Championship in Japan after being knocked out by Spain in the Dec. 13 semifinal, and then losing to Russia in the bronze medal game on Dec. 15. The Netherlands, which beat Norway 30-28 in the group stage for its first victory over Norway in 20 years, beat Spain in the final to claim the title.

The Norwegian team has been plagued by injuries this season and several key players stayed home. This caused experts to doubt the team’s medal chances. In addition to star keeper Kari Aalvik Grimsbø, Henny Reistad and Amanda Kurtovic, both Nora Mørk and Veronica Kristiansen, two of the team’s starting backcourts, and arguably the two most important Norwegian players, were not a part of the championship squad.

Much thanks to team captain and playmaker Stine Bredal Oftedal’s brilliance, the team exceeded most of the media’s expectations and effortlessly made it into the semifinals where they faced Spain, an opponent they have met many times and rarely had any problems defeating.

Heading into the match against Spain, both the media and the Norwegian players highlighted Norway’s tactical and physical advantages.

This time, however, the Spanish team had done their homework tactically and were able to force the Norwegian players into making mistakes. The game was characterized by individual errors and sloppy attacking plays. At one point in the first half, Norway didn’t score a goal for 11 minutes, missing three consecutive penalty shots.

Photo: International Handball Federation
Malin Larsen Aune prepares to shoot against Russia in the World Cup Handball bronze medal game in Japan. Norway fell to Russia 33-28 for a disappointing fourth place. They were missing several injured players, but easily reached the semifinals, where they lost to Spain.

The score was tied 13-13 at halftime, but throughout the second half, Spain (Alexandrina Cabral Barbosa 7G) showed themselves to be the better team. The Norwegian errors continued, and Spanish goalkeeper Silvia Navarro Gimenez played one of the best games of her international career. In the end, Spain won the game easily 28-22. Malin Larsen Aune led Norway with five goals.

In the bronze medal game against Russia, the Norwegian team started out great with a 3-0 lead. After 15 minutes of play, the score was 9-9 and from there on out Russia dominated completely. The Russian team, led by superstar Anna Vyakhireva (9G), had a five-point lead at halftime, a lead they were able to reach the end of the game without ever being threatened, 33-28.

Russia won the bronze medal, and Norway ended up in a bitter fourth place. Oftedal and Emilie Hegh Arntzen each had seven goals for Norway. Camilla Herrem was the only Norwegian player named to the World Cup All-Star team.

Taking last year’s fifth place in the European Championship into account, this is the first time in 15 years that the Norwegian handball women have gone through two championships in a row without winning a medal. The loss against Russia is also the first time in 23 years Norway has lost two games in a row. This might be a result of injured key players, but the team’s placement has shown a worsening trend since 2014: 1–1–3–1–2–5–4.

Next year, handball fans have both the Olympics and a European Championship in Norway to look forward to, so let’s hope the Norwegian team finds the winning formula as soon as possible.

This article originally appeared in the January 10, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.