Norway places fifth in handball European Championship
Semifinals missed by a second
JO CHRISTIAN WELDINGH
With a goal in the last second of overtime, Harald Reinkind secured fifth place and participation in next year’s World Championship for the Norwegian men’s handball team in the 2022 European Championship hosted by Hungary and Slovakia. Norway beat Iceland 34-33 Jan. 28. Sander Sagosen scored eight goals, Reinkind six.
Heading into the championship, the Norwegian team was one of the favorites to take home the trophy and got through the preliminary round, despite the 23-22 loss to Russia in their second game. The Norwegians went on to win their first three games in the main round, including outscoring Spain 27-23, its first win over Spain in 24 years, covering 11 games, while also snapping Spain’s 17-game unbeaten streak in the European Championships dating to Jan. 23, 2018, the same date as Norway’s win. Norway was tied with Spain and Russia before the last game in the round. To qualify for the semifinals, Norway had to beat rival Sweden, coached by Norwegian handball legend Glenn Solberg.
Norway controlled the first half and were up by five goals at halftime. The Norwegian dominance seemed to continue in the second half and with six minutes left to play, they were up by four goals, 23-19. In the final six minutes, Sweden dominated the game, and the Norwegian team collapsed completely. Sweden scored five goals in the final six minutes and won the game with a goal in the final second of the game, while Norway did not score a single goal. The game ended 24-23 in favor of Sweden. Reinkind led Norway with six goals. Sagosen, Christian O’Sullivan and Magnus Gullerud added four each. Norway, who has not reached a semifinal in their last three championships, had to settle for playing Iceland for fifth place.
“It’s rare to see a team collapse like this,” former handball keeper and TV3’s expert Tobias Erevik said after the game.
“This is the worst loss I have ever experienced,” Norwegian coach Christian Berge told VG.
The victory against Iceland and the ticket to next year’s World Championship might help calm the speculations. However, after three championships where the team has failed in reaching the semifinals, experts have started asking whether this was Berge’s last championship as head coach of the Norwegian national team. He has yet to win a trophy and is a perfect candidate as new head coach for the Norwegian club Kolstad Handball.
Sweden went on to win the European Championship for the first time in 20 years after beating Spain 27-26 in the final. Like in the game against Norway, they scored the game-winning goal in the last second of the game. Norwegian coach Solberg, who took the Swedes to the World Championship final last year, was celebrated by experts and players after the win.
“The best Norwegian handball coach ever,” former handball player and TV3’s expert Kristian Kjelling proclaimed.
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 18, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.