Norway win sixth EHF EURO gold

REVIEW: Norway claimed their sixth EHF EURO title in Budapest on Sunday, defeating Spain 28:25 thanks to a strong second half after trailing by two at half-time

Photo: Uros Hocevar

The first half of the EHF EURO 2014 Final belonged to Spain, but it was Norway that took the title with a strong second period, ending with a score of 28:25 (10:12) that demonstrated why they are the tournament's record winners.

It was Norway's sixth top podium finish in eleven Women's EHF EURO events since 1994. The silver medal for Spain meant a repetition of their success from the EHF EURO 2008 when they reached the final but lost to the same opponents they faced on Sunday in the Papp Laszlo Sportarena: Norway.

The win sees Norway directly qualifying for the next two major handball events: The Women's World Championship 2015 in Denmark and the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.

“This gold medal is very special to me. It was so great when I ran to the court and fans were greeting me and calling my name. I feel here like at home and it is really a great feeling to be here,” said the best line player of the championship Heidi Loke.

Spain are less experienced with big-stake matches than Norway, and this showed as the side made unforced attacking errors in the opening minutes.

Despite Spain's nervous start, the score was equal for the first few minutes until a quick goal from Alexandrina Cabral, already on three goals after six minutes, gave Spain the lead at 3:4 and proved to be a turning point.

Spain's goalkeeper Silvia Navarro made three difficult saves in quick succession - one from Heidi Loke at six metres, a fast break from Camilla Herrem, then a Nora Mörk penalty.

Navarro led the Spanish defence to keeping Norway scoreless for more than ten minutes while her team inched ahead.

The Scandinavian side finally put another goal on the board to take the score to 4:7 in the 15th minute.

After a slow start that had her on 25 per cent compared to Navarro's 45 after 20 minutes, Silje Solberg began to give the Spanish shooters trouble, keeping them from scoring for five minutes.

"I didn't expect anything from this championship and I am so proud that my team and I have made it so far. We just had a faith in ourselves. We came back in the matches, never gave up and kept fighting and it was enough, so I am proud," said Solberg who was later awarded the best goalkeeper of the tournament.

A two-minute suspension for Elisabet Chavez with just over two minutes left in the half gave Norway the opportunity to level the score, but Spain managed to retain their edge and led 10:12 at the break.

When the match resumed Norway quickly equalised, taking the lead Spain had held for most of the match in the 35th minute.

Silje Solberg received a two-minute suspension seconds later, but Norway stayed ahead with more dangerous attack than they had played in the first half.

With fifteen minutes remaining Norway had created a three-goal difference at 23:20.

When Emily Sando, coming in for Solberg for penalties, saved her second of the match and Sanna Solberg scored her third goal to take the score to 24:20, it was clear Norway were now the dominant side.

But the 'Guerreras' earned their nickname as warriors for a reason, continuing to fight as the clock wound down.

Norway were ahead by just one goal with two minutes left before a goal from Linn-Kristen Riegelhuth Koren followed by a save from Solberg meant they had a two-goal lead and possession in the last minute.

When the whistle indicated full-time, it was Norway's fans that were celebrating once again.

For Riegelhuth Koren and Karoline Breivang Norway's victory granted them their respective fifth EHF EURO title. The two have been part of every Norwegian team that won the EHF EURO since 2004.

Nerea Pena scored 10 goals that earned her the best player award for Spain, while Nora Mörk took the prize for Norway.

"We feel bad at the moment because we lost the final. On the other side we are happy because we won the medal. Nobody expected that we will win the medal or play the final match. That is a reason why we should celebrate our silver medal. We really deserved it!" said Macarena Aquilar.

written by Courtney Gahan / ts


Group D: Serbia vs. France