Norway loses handball championship

Second time is not the charm

Norway's men's handball

Photo: Bjørn S. Delebekk / VG
Above: Denmark celebrates while Norway walks dejectedly off the court after the Danes won the men’s world handball championship, 31-22.

Jo Christian Weldingh

In 2017, Norway’s men’s handball team lost its first-ever World Championship final 26-33 against France. This year, they reached the final once again, this time facing off against host nation Denmark. It ended in the same way. The Danes crushed the Norwegians, 31-22, Jan. 27.

“I’ll promise you, at some point it will be us standing up there,” Norwegian star playmaker and world’s best player Sander Sag­osen said in the press zone after the match, pointing up at the Danish winners. “We have experienced two devastating losses in a row, but at some point, we will win.”

Sagosen thought the Danes deserved the gold medal.

The Norwegian team had more than an amazing Danish team to compete against. They also had to face 15,000 crazy Danish fans in Boxen, the Danish handball stadium. The few hundred Norwegians in the stands had an impossible job making themselves heard.

“They’re trying to distract me, and to a certain degree, they were successful,” Sag­osen said, talking about the fact that the Danish spectators booed every time he had the ball.

When the championship was secured, the stadium went crazy. Handball is one of the biggest sports in Denmark, so it’s fair to compare the Danish victory to a Norwegian cross-country gold medal in the Olympics or an American Super Bowl.

The experts all agreed: Norway didn’t stand a chance. The two Norwegian keepers didn’t play up to their usual standards, and the Norwegians’ specialty, the counter attacks, didn’t work. Defensively, the Norwegians were lacking, and they missed too many shots on offense. The only Norwegian who deserved a pat on the back after the game was Magnus Jøndal, the championship’s best left winger, who delivered a good performance, scoring four goals on four attempts.

Norway's men's handball

Photo: Bjørn S. Delebekk / VG
Norway with their silver medals after the men’s handball world championship game loss to Denmark.

“It feels weird, and we’re disappointed right now,” coach Christian Berge said to the press when the match was over. “We’re not our best tonight, and Denmark played an amazing game. It feels bad now, but we have had a good championship and I think, by the end of the night, we’ll be proud of what we have accomplished.”

The Norwegian gold medal slipped away once again, but the future of Norwegian handball is brighter than ever. The team is young. Sagosen, the best Norwegian player, is, for example, only 23 years old. And losing against Denmark, a brilliant collective made up of world class players in the prime of their careers is, all in all, nothing to be ashamed of.

The Norwegian team lost against a Danish team that has dominated every match they’ve played in the championship. They didn’t slip up once.

Norway had a strong tournament. They ousted Germany 31-25 in the semifinal in Hamburg as Magnus Abelvik Rød scored seven goals, Sagosen and Bjarte Myrhol six each. In the first four games, Norway eclipsed 40 goals twice and won by an average margin of 15 goals. Then, they ran into Denmark, losing 30-26 as Danish star Mikkel Hansen scored 14 goals. Norway rebounded beating Sweden 30-27 (Jøndal 11goals), Hungary, 35-26 (Jøndal, Rød seven goals each), and Germany.

Having won two world championship silver medals in a row, Christian Berge’s team can hold their heads high and be proud. Sooner or later they will bring home the gold.

This article originally appeared in the February 22, 2019, 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.