Norway men beat Sweden in Euros

Norwegian handball women in Champions, European Leagues

handball

Photo: Stian Lysberg Solum / NTB
Alexander Blonz winds up at the main round match in the handball European Championships between Norway and Sweden at the Barclays Arena in Hamburg, Germany.

Michael Kleiner
Business & Sports Editor
The Norwegian American

There was a lot of excitement in Germany for the men’s handball European Championships, starting with the Jan. 10 doubleheader of Germany vs. Switzerland and France vs. North Macedonia in Dusseldorf’s soccer stadium that drew a world handball record crowd of 53,586 fans.

Group play began the next day for Norway in Berlin. There, they defeated Poland 32-21, but the tournament was uneven for the Norwegians. They managed to advance to the main round in Hamburg, but the last two games in that group was the Scandinavian gauntlet, Denmark and Sweden. Denmark eliminated Norway from semifinal contention, 29-23, Jan. 21.

The Swedes entered the Jan. 23 match as defending champions and having already clinched a spot in this year’s semifinals. They played some starters and substitutes. Norway was determined to finish on a positive note, though they were without injured Sander Sagosen, Magnus Abelvik Rød and Gøran S. Johannessen.

A dominant second half gave Norway a 33-23 victory, tying its record for largest margin of victory in EC play, while Sweden equaled its record for the largest margin of defeat.

“It was good for us to end this championship with a slightly better feeling than if we had lost or only won by one goal today,” Alexander Christoffersen Blonz, who closed an excellent tournament with 11 goals on 12 shots, told NTB. “We promised each other before the match that we would give everything, and we did.”

Kristian Bjørnsen and Tobias Schjølberg Grøndahl added 5 goals apiece.

“This victory does not erase the championship for us, but it is still good to end this way,” goalie Torbjørn Sittrup Bergerud, who had eight saves in the finale, told NTB.

Sweden scored the first two goals of the game, but there were 9 ties the rest of the half. Max Darj tied it for Sweden 10-10 with 9:46 left in the half. Norway went on a 5-2 run on two goals each by Bjørnsen and Blonz, and one by Simen Ulstad Lyse for a 15-12 advantage at intermission.

Norway maintained the momentum in the second half, going on a 16-6 run in the first 22:58 for a 31-18 lead. Grøndahl and Blonz had 4 goals apiece, Lyse, Harald Reinkind and Bjørnsen 2 each, Petter Øverby and Magnus Gullerud 1 apiece in the outset.

“We played well today, and we needed to get back the feeling that we can play handball,” national team manager Jonas Wille told Viaplay. “Good defensively, good speed and a lot of variety in the attacking game. We play without the handbrake on. We knew that it was not a very important match, but for us it meant a lot.”

Abelvik Rød had the most serious of the injuries. He had already returned to Oslo and had surgery to repair a fracture in his metatarsal bone in the foot. He is expected to miss three months. Sagosen had a strained hamstring, and Johannessen had a minor injury that wasn’t expected to sideline him for long.

Main round

In Game 3 of the main round, Jan. 21, the Danes outscored Norway (Blonz 5G, Sagosen 4G) 13-5 for a 16-8 lead 4 minutes before intermission. In Game 2, Jan. 19, Norway (Sagosen, 6G-11 assists, Magnus Gullerud, 7G, Blonz 6G) beat Netherlands 37-32.

With the score 21-21, Norway went on 7-2 run for a 28-23 lead with 13:14 left. In the opener, Jan. 17, Portugal beat Norway (Blonz 7G, Bjørnsen 6G) 37-32.

Group phase

In the group phase, Norway downed Poland 32-21; tied Faroe Islands 26-26 and lost 28-27 to group leader Slovenia.

Vipers Kristiansand in Champions League

Three-time defending women’s champion Vipers Kristiansand (Anna Vyakhireva 9G, Sunniva Amalie Næs-Andersen 6G) won its fifth straight Champions League game downing FTC-Rail Cargo (Hungary) 35-27, Feb. 10. They are locked into fourth place in Group B with 15 points in 13 games (7 wins-1 draw-5 losses-15 pts) entering the group finale against Ikast (Denmark) Feb. 17. Vipers will play in the third-sixth places bracket. On Feb. 3, Vipers (Vyakhireva 7G, Tuva Ulsaker Høve 4G) edged MKS Zaglebi Lubin (Poland) 28-24. Zaglebi drew within 25-23 with 4:58 on the clock. Vyakhireva, Janna Knedliková and Luisa Schulz scored to ice the game.

On Jan. 21, Vipers (Knedliková 11 goals on 13 shots, Vyakhireva 7G) downed Esbjerg (Denmark) 37-32. Esbjerg has seven Norwegians: Henny Ella Reistad, Nora Mørk, Kristine Breistøl, Julia Bøe Jacobsen, Marit Røsberg Jacobsen, Live Rushfeldt Deila, and Sanna Charlotte Solberg-Isaksen.

Esbjerg crept within 17-15, but Vipers scored the last four goals of the half in 2:42 by Vilde Kaurin Jonassen, Lysa Tchaptchet-Defo, Vyakhireva and Jasmine Roberts, for a 21-15 lead at the break. The lead grew to 28-18 in the second half.

On Jan. 13, Vipers (Vyakhireva, Roberts 7G) beat Krim Mercator Ljubljana (Slovenia) 29-23. After Krim pulled within 25-22 with 7:59 remaining, Lois Abbingh scored, followed by three from Roberts for a 28-22 lead with 3:26 on the clock.

Women’s European League

Currently, Sola and Storhamar are in first place in their respective groups in European League play.

On Feb. 10, Sola (Camilla Herrem 9G, Malin Holta, Lene Kristiansen Tveiten, Kristina Novak 6G) avenged a 32-28 Jan. 14 loss to Motherson Mosonmagyaróvári.

KC (Hungary) with a 34-29 victory. MM drew within 25-23 with 13:10 on the clock, but Sola went on an 11-6 closing run. On Feb. 3, Sola (Kristiansen Tveiten, Herrem, Novak 6G) downed CSM Targu Jiu (Romania) 31-21. Sola scored eight straight goals in the last 8:17 of the first half to take an 18-9 lead.

Ten different players scored (Kristiansen Tveiten 8G, Herrem 7G, Novak 6G) and Sola moved into first place in Group D with a 40-29 beating on CSM Targu Jiu, Jan. 20 in Stavanger. Sola jumped out to a 9-1 lead 7:30 into the contest with three goals from Herrem and two each from Martine Wolff and Novak. After the visitors cut the lead to 15-10 with 10:49 left in the half, Sola went on a 15-2 run for a 30-12 lead after 8:04 of the second half.

Sola (4-0-1-8 pts) closes out group play hosting a Feb. 17 match against Costa del Sol Malaga (Spain).

On Feb. 11, Storhamar (Mathilde Rivas-Toft 6G, Guro Nestaker 5G) beat Nykøbing Falster (Denmark) 27-26, same score as their Jan. 6 match, on an Anniken Obaidli goal with 13 seconds left. On Feb. 4 Storhamar (Obaidli 8G) avenged its 23-19 loss to HC Podravka Vegeta (Croatia) Jan. 20, with a 31-22 victory. Storhamar led 19-11 at the half and were never threatened.

On Jan. 14, 10 players scored for Storhamar (Olivia Linnèa Josephine Löfqvist 7G), the hosts jumped to an early lead in a 35-17 victory over Praktiker-Vác (Hungary).

Praktiker-Vác is Storhamar’s (4-0-1-8 pts) last Group A game, Feb. 18.

This article originally appeared in the March 2024 issue of The Norwegian American.

Avatar photo

Michael Kleiner

Michael Kleiner, business and sports editor, has more than three decades of experience as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. He has operated his own PR and web design business for small businesses, authors and community organizations in Philadelphia since 1999. Not of Norwegian descent, he lived in Norway for a year with his family at age 11 and has returned as an adult. He is the author of a memoir, Beyond the Cold: An American’s Warm Portrait of Norway, and a member of NorCham Philadelphia. Visit Kleinerprweb.com; beyondthecold.com.