Norway rely on speed and tough defence to keep Spain at bay

PREVIEW: The statistics are clearly in Norway's favour, but the belief in the Norwegian camp is strong that it will take more than a look at past performances to beat Spain in the final on Sunday

Photo: Stephane Pillaud

When Norway and Spain meet in the final at the Women's EHF EURO 2014, it it will be Spain's second final at an EHF EURO, while it is Norway's ninth overall and their seventh in succession.

Spain played their only EHF EURO Final to date also against Norway, but is was arguably a one-sided affair at the EHF EURO 2008 with Norway taking a 34:21 win.

Four of the players in the current Norwegian team were already part of the team back then: Right wing Linn-Kristin Riegelhuth Koren, centre back Karoline Dyhre Breivang, line player Heidi Loke and left wing Camilla Herrem.

Riegelhuth Koren was also the match's top scorer six years ago in Skopje. She expects a much closer outcome this time.

"I expect a tough match against a strong Spanish team who have done very well at this championship," she says.

"However, if we play our usual strong defence and stick close together in defence, I think we are a well on our way.

"We are a tough group of players, and if we also play as fast and fluent in our attack as we know we can, I think they (Spain) will have trouble keeping up."

If Norway win the EHF EURO once again, it will not only be the sixth time in 11 European Championships they top the podium.

It will also mark the tenth gold medal for Norway at a major handball championship, including Olympic Games (2008 and 2012), World Championships (1999 and 2011) and European Championships (1998, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010).

Sunday's final will already be the second time at this EHF EURO that Norway and Spain face each other as the two teams also met in the main round.

In the Fönix Hall in Debrecen Norway beat Spain 29:26 after an extremely well-played and close match.

Defence will decide

It is often said that the losing team in such a match has learned its lesson for the next encounter, but Norway's coach Thorir Hergeirsson disagrees.

"We will see tomorrow (Sunday) who has learned the most.

"The final will be an entirely new game with new opportunities, and in that respect the first match does not mean all that much," he says.

Line player Heidi Loke was also part of the Norwegian team that defeated Spain six years ago. She is in no doubt what will decide the final on Sunday.

"It will be tough defensive play and our ability to keep the Spanish players away from breaking through," she says.

It was not only at the final in 2008 and in the main round match at this competition that Norway had the upper hand against Spain.

Out of 21 competitive matches between the two teams, Norway have won 16, drawn twice and only lost three games.

Their last defeat against Spain was at the London Olympics 2012, when they lost 20:25 but still ended up winning gold.

written by Peter Bruun / ts


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