'Heja Norge' for the seventh time
When the final buzzer sounded and the 30:29 against the Netherlands was confirmed, the 11,037 spectators in Scandinavium – most of them from Norway – jumped and danced and danced and jumped. The Norwegian fans gave the new and old EHF EURO champions standing ovations and sang “Heja Norge” for the seventh time in total, and the sixth time since 2004. Only in 2012 when Montenegro beat the Scandinavian side after extra time in the final in Belgrade were the EURO champions not from Norway.
From those players that received their gold medals on Sunday in Gothenburg, goalkeeper Kari Aalvik Grimsbo made the most significant history – she is the first person in handball to win six EURO trophies. Though Grimsbo had a huge impact on the dramatic win, another Norwegian was the biggest star: All-star Team right back Nora Mork. Netting 12 times, she was not only the match winner but became EURO 2016 top scorer with a total of 53 goals.
Icelandic handball made history with the result as well, as for the first time ever, both men’s and women’s EURO champions were coached by Icelanders: First Germany steered by Dagur Sigurdsson, now Norway led by Thorir Hergeirsson.
"Netherlands gave us a fantastic fight. They have been developing and growing for the last year and especially the last month. Helle is a good coach, they will remain a tough opponent in the future and will be in many more finals," said Hergeirsson. "Today’s match was a good experience for us. Kari Grimsbo, Nora Mork and the team spirit were the keys for the win."
The Netherlands were defeated again by the Norwegians, after losing the World Championship 2015 final 23:31 and the 2016 Olympic bronze-medal match 26:36. And like at the EHF EURO 2014, Norway proved fateful to coach Helle Thomsen. Two years ago, the Danish-born coach lost the EURO Semi-final with Sweden, and in 2016 the final with Netherlands.
"I don't know whether we were just unlucky. It was a real final today and both teams have shown nice handball," said Netherlands goalkeeper Tess Wester. "Sometimes we were better, sometimes it was Norway. I am really sad that we didn’t get the gold, but we were really close."
The first half of the great final was a perfect promotion for women’s handball: Highly-skilled players, impressive goals, top speed and world-class goalkeepers – simply brilliant. With an incredible first 20 minutes from goalkeeper Tess Wester with a save rate of more than 50 per cent, she backed her team and shocked the defending champions.
Unexpectedly, the Dutch side were mostly dangerous from their line players, as All-star Team member Yvette Broch and Danick Snelder found gaps in the massive Norwegian defence to help their team move ahead with a total of seven goals from seven attempts before the break. Within just 10 minutes, the Netherlands turned 6:6 into a 13:9 lead, quieting the thousands of Norwegian fans in Scandinavium Arena.
But the record European champions managed to cheat the gallows, scoring five unanswered goals for a 14:13 lead – and re-animating their fans on the stands. The level half-time result of 15:15 was a deserved outcome in the so-far best 30 minutes of the EURO 2016.
After her six goals before the break, Mork still was on fire in the second half. When she netted for 17:16 on a penalty shot, tallying her seventh goal, she was confirmed as the EHF EURO top scorer – but her hunger was anything but stilled.
A double strike from team captain Stine Oftedal provided the Scandinavians with a two-goal advantage, and was quickly followed by a team time-out for the Dutch side with the score at 20:22. The supporters in the stands were like an eighth player for the Norwegians, while the Netherlands began to have trouble scoring.
Goalkeeper Grimsbo saved some important shots, then Mork scored the goal of the day – a hammer right under the goal bar for 24:20, before Grimsbo saved Maura Visser’s penalty in minute 45.
While the Dutch side netted only twice in nine minutes after the score board showed 19:19, Norway were in champions’ mode when they reached 26:21. But as Wester returned to her world-class level – ultimately saving 16 shots – the Netherlands reduced the gap goal by goal.
All seemed to be safe and well for Norway when Mork netted for 30:27 three minutes before the end but, backed by a double strike from Polman for 29:30, the Netherlands had the chance to equalise right with the final buzzer. They lost the ball on a technical error with seconds remaining, and were truly shocked as the whistle sounded and Norway celebrated.