Norway comes up short in historic handball championship match

Norway’s first ever appearance in the handball world championships ended in defeat on Sunday as France came from behind to win 33-26 and claimed their sixth world title.

Norway comes up short in historic handball championship match
France's Kentin Mahe scores on a penalty against Norway's goalkeeper Torbjørn Bergerud during the 25th IHF Men's World Championship 2017 final handball match on Sunday in Paris. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP
But Norway sure made the hosts sweat by leading for most of the first half.
At a packed and partisan Bercy Stadium in Paris, Norway's 22-year-old goalkeeper Torbjørn Bergerud held the defending champions at bay until just before half-time.
However, after going 18-17 in front at the interval, France then raced ahead and never looked in danger of defeat.
The turning point came in the closing minutes of the first period as France's two stars, Nikola Karabatic and Valentin Porte, grabbed quick-fire unanswered goals.
“Words cannot describe the feeling, after all the pressure this month hosting the tournament, I feel deep pride at the level of support from French handball fans, they made us dream,” Karabatic said after a game watched by 15,000 fans.
Karabatic and Porte went on to rack up six and five goals each as rank outsiders Norway looked on powerlessly as the side which choked in the Rio Olympic final against Denmark rose brilliantly to the occasion.
France came out for the second period with all guns blazing and quickly scored a flurry of goals, forcing a five-goal lead and panicking the Norwegians into a time-out within five minutes of the restart.
The runners-up, however, did have two outstanding performers in keeper Bergerud, man-of-the-match in their semi-final win over Croatia, who was again excellent, and Kent Robin Tonnesen, 25, who scored five times and was a constant physical menace.
Luka Karabatic, the team's injured pivot who partnered elder brother Nikolas to the 2015 world title, said it had been agony watching the game from the bench.
“Norway had a great first half and it was very difficult to watch, but when we went in at the break a goal up I knew it would be okay,” he said.
“We were carried by the crowd and they cracked.”
France keeper Thierry Omeyer, who was in the French side which won the title on home ground back in 2001, also thanked the fans.
“We are all really proud to fill these stadiums, it's just been huge having our families here and all our handball friends,” said the 40-year-old stopper, who is now mulling retirement.
Slovenia claimed third place on Saturday with a 31-30 win over Croatia, overturning an 18-13 half-time deficit to make the podium for the first time at the world event.

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Norway backs out of co-hosting Euro handball champs with Denmark over Covid

Norway has pulled out of co-hosting the women's European handball championship just two weeks before the start in December due to restrictions linked to the coronavirus pandemic, its federation said on Monday.

Norway backs out of co-hosting Euro handball champs with Denmark over Covid
Denmark playing against Norway at last year's handball world cup in Japan. Photo: Bo Amstrup/Ritzau Scanpix

“Based on in-depth assessments by Norwegian health authorities as well as clear demands from Norwegian political authorities, it is now clear that Norway cannot be an organiser of the women's European handball championship,” the federation said.

Denmark is now considering whether to host the event on its own.

Strict restrictions are however currently in place in the North Jutland region, where some of the matches were due to be played, after a mutated version of the virus was found in the country's mink population, infecting 12 people.

The European Handball Federation “very much regrets the decision of the Norwegian government”, it said in a statement, referring to the Norwegian health authorities' refusal to grant exemptions to the strict measures it has imposed.

Under current rules, if a player or team official tests positive for the virus the entire team must quarantine, as well as the teams that it has opposed just prior.

The rules are less strict in Denmark.

“Alternatives are being sought with the Danish Handball Association and additional information will be released on Tuesday at the latest,” the European Handball Federation said.

Norway had been due to host around 60 percent of matches, including the final, in Trondheim.

While Norway has been one of the countries in Europe least affected by the pandemic, it has seen a recent uptick in cases which has led authorities to introduce a series of measures, notably on cultural and sporting events.

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