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Solberg secures eighth consecutive EHF EURO Final for Norway

REVIEW: France were a tough nut to crack for the defending champions in the semi-final, but eventually not tough enough as Norway set up a final clash against the Netherlands

Photo: Uros Hocevar

When the final whistle was blown, more than 9,000 fans in the Scandinavium jumped up and down and the players danced on the court.

With a 20:16 win against Olympic silver medallists France, Norway reached the final of the EHF EURO 2016 in Sweden where they will face Netherlands, turning the last game of this championship in a re-match of the World Championship 2015 Final which Norway won 31:23 against the Netherlands.

The semi-final was the lowest scoring in the history of Women's EHF EURO events, only one more goal overall were scored in the semi-finals between Spain and Montenegro at the EHF EURO 2014 (19:18) and between Norway and France at the EHF EURO 2002 (21:16).

The unquestioned hero of the game was Norwegian goalkeeper Silje Solberg who saved 13 shots overall, including several in the final stages of the game.

"It was a big fight and France showed a good fighting spirit. Our goalkeeper Silje had almost 60 percent and together with our defence that was the key to our victory. And also the fact that my players kept their heads cool in the last minutes," said Norway coach Thorir Hergeirsson. 

Right back Nora Mork was once again on fire, scoring seven goals in the game, but the particularly crucial strikes this time came from line player Marit Malm Frafjord.

France are still to win an EHF EURO semi-final against Norway. Every time they reached the second last stage of a European Championship they lost against Norway: in 2002, in 2006 (28:24) and now in 2016.

At the same time the defending champions extended their outstanding EHF EURO series to an eighth consecutive final participation, beginning with the EHF EURO in 2002.

Frafjord scores her 400th international

France had the better start to the game and five rockets from right back Alexandra Lacrabere granted France a 7:4 lead after 15 minutes.

But when Norway coach Thorir Hergeirsson called a timeout and used it to adapt his team's defence strategy, France lost their rhythm – while Norway also clearly improved in attack: France did not score for 13 minutes and conceded seven unanswered goals.

However, by scoring the final two goals of the first half, France kept the game open and both teams went into the dressing room with Norway leading 11:9.

For the beginning of the second half, France head coach Olivier Krumbholz changed the goalkeeper with Laura Glauser taking over from Amandine Leynaud – and it paid off. Glauser stood like a wall, handing Norway enormous troubles to score.

When left wing Manon Houette equalised at 13:13 in the 41st minutes, everything was open again. The only Norwegian, who scored in the first 13 minutes of the second half was line player Marit Malm Frafjord with two goals.

In the 46th minute Laurisa Landre granted France with their first lead in the second half at 16:15 – the game was on the edge and a French win seemed a possibility.

But it was Frafjord who put Norway back on track. With her 400th international goal, her third in the game in the 54th minute, she secured the 17:16, only to score the 18:16 straight after.

France tried to bounce back one more time, but three consecutive saves from Solberg broke their resistance and they could not score in the last seven minutes of the game, while Stine Oftedal and Amanda Kurtovic scored the two final goals of the game.

"We were close to doing something big today. But in the last five minutes we lost it when we were not able to score even from a penalty shot," said France's Allison Pineau. "We are really disappointed, we were leading, but should have scored scored when it mattered. Even our defence, which worked well again, was not enough."

written by Björn Pazen / ts