France to challenge Norway for world titleArticle
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SEMI-FINAL REVIEW: The Olympic silver medallists edge Sweden to set up a final against the defending world champions, who defeat the Netherlands once again

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France to challenge Norway for world title

The trophy at the Women’s IHF World Championship 2017 in Germany will not be lifted by first-time winners.

Sunday’s final in Hamburg features 2003 gold medallists France and defending champions Norway. The Scandinavians are after a record-equalling fourth world title.

It will be France’s fifth final in total. From the previous four, they lost three – and two times (in 1999 and 2011) Norway were their opponents.

In the semi-finals on Friday, France came from behind to beat Sweden 24:22, hours after Norway had outscored the Netherlands 32:23.

Both Sweden and 2015 silver medallists Netherlands will have to wait two more years before getting another shot at their first world title.

On Sunday (match schedule), they play the bronze medal match at 14:30 hrs local time. Three hours later, France and Norway contest the final. Less than 11 months ago, the same nations played the gold medal match at the Men’s World Championship, with hosts France taking the title.

France through after strong finish

France and Sweden kept the more than 11,000 handball fans in Hamburg on the edge of their seats for the entire match. They swapped the lead over and over again, keeping the tension high as neither team could carve out a decisive lead.

France looked like doing so by going up by four goals (10:6) after 20 minutes but a 6:0 series gave Sweden a 12:10 lead.

After the break (12:11), the story repeated itself when France again lost a four-goal lead (from 19:15 to 19:19).

It were the terrific saves by goalkeeper Amandine Leynaud and the goals in the last 1 1/2 minute by Allison Pineau and Blandine Dancette that gave France the edge (24:22), though Sweden’s Nathalie Hagman was the best scorer of the match with eight goals.

Norway showed no mercy again

Norway had beaten the Netherlands in medal matches at each of the past three major tournaments (World Championship 2015, Olympic Games 2016, EHF EURO 2016), and they showed no mercy again when both teams met in Friday’s first semi-final.

In less than 12 minutes, Norway were 8:1 up after outplaying the chanceless Dutch team in every department of the game.

Coach Thorir Hergeirsson’s team kept the seven-goal advantage going into the break (17:10). The outstanding Nora Mørk netted five of her eight goals in total in the first half. She now tops the tournament’s top scorers list with 59 goals.

During the second half, the Netherlands fought against a deficit varying between six and 10 goals, and in the end lost by nine (32:23). Their best scorer was Laura van der Heijden with five goals.

Photos: IHF/Stéphane Pillaud

TEXT: EHF / ew