Norway beat Sweden to set up re-match of EHF EURO 2008 Final
The final of the EHF EURO 2014 will be a re-match of the EHF EURO 2008 Final in FYR Macedonia with Norway meeting Spain on Sunday at 18:00 hrs in the Papp Laszlo Sportarena.
Six years ago Norway had taken a confident 34:21 win, and while Sunday's final is likely to be not that onesided, Norway are certainly well prepared as they beat Sweden in the semi-final in confident fashion 29:25.
The final will be the second encounter of both teams at this tournament. Both teams met in Main Round Group I in Debrecen with Norway taking a 29:26 win.
Ahead of the semi-final, the Norwegian camp had reported everyone fit after some players had been troubled by illness over the past few days.
When the game threw off, the Norwegians definitely appeared fresher than they were in their last main round game against Hungary on Wednesday, and it did not take them long to take a 3:0 lead.
According to a survey made by Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, 14 of the 16 players in the Swedish squad considered Norwegian line player Heidi Loke to be the best handball player in the world.
And from the start the 32-year-old lived up to her reputation by scoring three goals within the first ten minutes. She would eventually finish the game with five goals from seven attempts.
"I feel so happy. It's a wonderful feeling to be in the final. We were playing really great from the start and fighting very strong in the defence and this time in both halves not only in the one," Loke said.
From the early 3:0 lead onwards, Norway's dominance continued, while even an early Swedish timeout did not bring the much desired change to the game.
When Norway had powered away to 9:3, Sweden's coach Helle Thomsen even seemed close to call a second timeout, but a few changes on the court brought Sweden back into the game without making another timeout necessary.
Filippa Idehn replaced Johanna Bundsen in goal, and Johanna Ahlm entered the court as playmaker instead of Isabelle Gullden who had not been able to make her play flow like in previous matches.
However, Gullden was only rested for five and a half minutes, before she came on again and looked more like her usual self and she was eventually awarded Sweden's best player.
She also contributed to Sweden coming closer towards half-time, with the score at 13:11 for Norway when both teams went to the dressing rooms.
While Sweden's coaches, Helle Thomsen and Thomas Sivertsson, made a lot of changes in their team for the second half in order to try and change the course of the game, their Norwegian counterpart Thorir Hergeirsson played with the same team for the entire 60 minutes - and that decision paid off.
"Sweden showed an excellent fight. We knew before that if we want to be beat them, we have to show the best match so far in this tournament. And especially in goalkeeping, defence and counter-attacks we did," said Hergeirsson.
The closest Sweden came was one goal (18:17) when ten minutes were played in the second half, but Norway were strong enought to fight off any further Swedish approach.
"Norway were good, mainly in defence and goalkeeping and they had the right concept, while we had problems in attack today," said Swedish coach Helle Thomsen.
Four unanswered goals saw them leading 22:17 with 15 minutes to go, a time by which the Swedish resistance had been broken.
Until the end goals were exchanged at both ends of the court with Norway eventually taking a 29:25 win.