Norway women win European handball title
Bringing home the gold—again!
Business & Sports Editor
The Norwegian American
It took eight years and 16 games, but Denmark finally defeated Norway, 31-29, in the final game of the Main Round group of the women’s European Handball Championships on Nov. 16. It took only four days for Norway to avenge it and they did so in an even more important game, rallying to beat the Danes 27-25 in the championship game before 5,380 fans at Stožice Arena in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on Nov. 20. Oddly, the last time the two Scandinavian teams faced each other in a final was the 2004 Euros, with Norway winning by the same score.
It was a blend of the new guard and the old that pulled Norway to the gold again. Among the Olympics, World Cup, and European Championships, this was Norway’s 23rd final, 15th win, second straight Euro and 9th Euro overall. The win also clinched a berth in the 2024 Olympics. Kari Brattset Dale, Sanna Solberg-Isaksen, Camilla Herrem–all three are pregnant–and Veronica Kristiansen were not on the team.
Denmark led by as much as five twice in the first half and entered intermission up 15-12.
A Sarah Iversen goal with 16:24 left gave Denmark a 22-18 lead. Two goals by Maren Nyland Aardahl, 28, and one by Vilde Mortensen Ingstad, 27, and Nora Mørk, 31, knotted the game at 22 with 9:44 remaining. Trine Østergaard Jensen put the Danes back on top, 23-22 with 8:31 on the clock. Norway went on a 5-2 run with two goals by Kristine Breistøl, 29, and Henny Ella Reistad, 23, and one by Stine Brede Oftedal, 31. Reistad’s first goal broke a 24-24 tie with 3:54 left. Katrine Lunde, 42-year-old veteran goalie, entered 10 minutes into the second half and made four critical saves to nail down her 10th gold medal, a Norwegian record. Silje Solberg-Østhassel, 32, had nine saves.
“We started to get bad times, but knew we just had to keep going,” Lunde told NTB. “Denmark, in a number of matches recently, has become a bit tired or unimaginative.”
Mørk had 8 goals on 9 shots and led the tournament with 50 goals, the third time she has been the leading scorer at the Euros. She was named the final’s best player and was an incredible 28-for-29 (96.6%) on free throws, and converted 78.1% of her shots. Reistad was named most valuable player before the match and she and Oftedal were named to the all-star team, though Mørk wasn’t.
“I am completely empty,” said Mørk, who won her first Euro title in 2010. “I think it’s completely surreal. That match was a roller coaster and I had an internal battle with myself. I’m just so proud. I don’t quite understand how we do it.”
“It was really only the ending that was good,” said Reistad, who had 46 goals in the tourney. “We keep up all the way and that means that we manage to move up in the lead in the end. We struggle and struggle all the way, so credit to Denmark for playing a good game.”
Montenegro took bronze, beating France, 27-25.
How Norway got there
Nov. 18: Undefeated France drew within 21-19 on a goal by Grace Zaadi Deuna with 11:18 remaining. Then, Norway put the foot to the gas, outscoring the French 7-1 the rest of the way for a 28-20 victory. Oftedal and Ingstad each scored twice, Sunniva Amalie Næs Andersen, Thale Rushfeldt Deila and Reistad once in the run. Mørk scored 8 goals on 8 straight shots; Oftedal 7, Reistad 5. Solberg-Østhassel won the goaltender battle against France’s Cléopatre Darleux with 14 saves (41.18%), seven in each half. Darleux had 7 saves.
The first half featured 9 lead changes and 9 ties and Norway prevailed 12-11 behind 5 goals each by Mørk and Oftedal.
Norway beat France in the 2021 World Cup final and 2020 European final.
Denmark advanced to the final with a 27-23 win over Montenegro.
Main Round Group I
Nov. 16: The Danes and Norwegians played a nip-and-tuck affair with nine ties in the second half alone. Louise Katharina Vinter Burgaard, Simone Cathrine Petersen, Iversen, and Mette Tranborg scored around a Reistad goal giving Denmark a 29-25 lead with 5:55 left, the largest lead of the game.
Mørk, Malin Larsen Aune, and Oftedal scored to draw Norway within 29-28 with 2:41 on the clock. Petersen made it 30-28 with 2:04 left. Aune countered with 26 seconds on the clock, but Petersen capped the scoring with one tick left.
Mørk led Norway with 8 goals, followed by Reistad with 5, and Aune with 4, while Lunde had 10 saves. For Denmark, Anne Mette Hansen had 7, Petersen 5, while Sandra Toft had 11 saves.
Denmark and Norway finished tied (4-0-1-8 pts), but the Danes got the higher seed with the win. Each team received two bonus wins and four bonus points for winning their preliminary group.
Nov. 14: Norway outlasted host Slovenia 26-23. Norway led 16-15 at halftime, but Slovenia led by one point three times in the second half. Reistad (10 goals) broke a 23-23 tie with 3:30 remaining and made it 25-23 with 2:16 on the clock. Mørk added 6, Oftedal 4.
Nov. 12: In the Main Round opener, Norway squeaked by Sweden 27-25. The score was knotted at 13 at intermission, but the Swedes went on top 19-18 with 20:44 remaining. Mørk’s goal with 17:45 left gave Norway the lead for good, 20-19. Ingstad scored 3 goals, Oftedal and Reistad, 2 and Deila 1 to close out the game. For the match, Reistad had 7, Ingstad 6, Mørk and Oftedal 4. Jenny Helen Carlson scored 9 and Linn Blohm 7 for Sweden.
Preliminary Round Group A
Nov. 8: An 18-9 second-half run allowed Norway to break from a one-goal lead to a 32-22 victory over Hungary. Nine players scored during the run with Ingstad and Oftedal tallying 4, Mørk 3, and Breistøl 2. Ingstad finished with 8, Oftedal and Reistad 5 each and Mørk 4 as Norway converted 74.4% of its shots. Solberg-Østhassel had 21 saves (48.84%).
Nov. 6: Norway jumped to a 19-9 halftime lead and routed Switzerland 38-21. Ten players scored in a 15-6 first-half run led by Aardahl and Oftedal with 3 each and Emilie Hovden with 2. Oftedal finished with 6, Aardahhl, Mørk, Aune, Ingstad and Reistad with 4 apiece. Norway connected on 64.4% of its shots.
Nov. 4: A 15-6 run in the final 17:02 enabled Norway to break away for a 32-23 victory over Croatia. Mørk led the way with 8 goals, followed by Reistad 7, Ingstad 5, and Breistøl 4. Norway shot 68.1% and converted all 5 penalty shots.
This article originally appeared in the January 2023 issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.