Norway take next step towards title defenceArticle
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QUARTER-FINAL REVIEW: The top three teams from last year's EHF EURO, joined by Sweden, have made it to the final weekend of the World Championship

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Norway take next step towards title defence

The Norwegian national women's team remain on course for their third major title in as many years.

The defending champions eased past Olympic gold medallists Russia 34:17 in the quarter-finals of the Women's IHF World Championship 2017 in Germany on Wednesday.

In the semi-finals at the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg on Friday (match schedule), Norway will play the Netherlands, who defeated the Czech Republic 30:26.

The Dutch team were Norway's opponents in the final of both the World Championship 2015 and the EHF EURO 2016 as well as in the bronze medal match at last year's Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Norway won all three encounters.

Also, Sweden beat Scandinavian neighbours Denmark 26:23 and, in their first-ever semi-final, will take on EHF EURO 2016 bronze medallists France, who defeated Montenegro 25:22.

Dominant from the start

Russia spoiled Norway’s Olympic gold dream in the semi-finals in Rio last year. But coach Evgenii Trefilov’s team never came close to repeating that feat on Wednesday night.

Norway were dominant from the start and they already led by six goals (8:2) after less than 13 minutes’ play. The difference was seven at the break (15:8) and became a double-digit figure for the first time few minutes into the second half (19:9).

With on-fire Nora Mørk (nine goals) and Stine Oftedal (eight) scoring from all positions, Norway didn’t leave Russia any realistic hope for a comeback. Veteran line player Heidi Løke scored twice in the final minute to wrap up the 34:17 victory.

Firing on all cylinders

Having only just scraped through their Last 16 match against Japan in extra time on Monday, the Netherlands came out firing on all cylinders against the Czech Republic two days later, building a quick 7:1 advantage.

However, their dominance faded after that opening phase and the bravely battling Czechs were already back in the match 10 minutes later (10:9).

The Czech Republic never got their nose in front but after the break (17:16), they levelled three times and the score was still 24:24 with 10 minutes left on the clock.

Then the Netherlands finally stepped up a gear again and took the win following a 6:2 series thanks to three goals from the outstanding Lois Abbingh, raising her total for the match to an impressive 14.

Best result in the competition

Reaching the last four is already Sweden’s best result in the competition. They won silver (2010) and bronze (2014) at EHF EURO events but never finished better than sixth (1993) at World Championships.

Two days after eliminating hosts Germany, Denmark enjoyed the better start in the match and went 5:2 up early on.

However, Sweden had levelled the score (8:8) 10 minutes later and were ahead by two (13:11) at the break. Coach Henrik Signell’s team remained in front for the entire second half.

Hanna Blomstrand for Norway and Mette Tranborg for Denmark each scored seven goals.

Another major semi-final

After winning silver at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and bronze at the EHF EURO 2016 few months later, France have advanced to the semi-final of a major tournament for the third time in a row.

Led by Allison Pineau’s five goals, the 2003 world champions ended the unexpected run by Montenegro, who had swapped coaches just before the tournament but performed strongly as they sent home both 2013 finalists – Brazil and Serbia.

Having returned under new coach Per Johansson, right back Katarina Bulatovic scored nine times against France to finish the tournament on 42 goals.

Montenegro took an early 4:2 lead but the match quickly turned around following a 5:0 series for France (7:4). Being two ahead at half-time (12:10), France controlled the second half on their way to a 25:22 win.

Photos: IHF/Stéphane Pillaud

TEXT: EHF / ew