Poland grabs Norwegian gift
January 26, 2016
On Saturday, Norway took Poland’s destiny out of their hands. On Monday, they generously gave it back.
By Peter Bruun
Saturday night, Norway opened the gate to a historic semi-final at EURO 2016 with a sensational 30:28 win against Poland. Two days later the surprise team from Scandinavia returned the favor to the Polish host after a disappointing 31:31 draw against Macedonia. Coach Biegler’s squad quickly grabbed the gift, winning 32:27 in a “must-win” game against Belarus.
Norway’s handball men want to get out of the shadow of the women’s national handball team, so badly – understandable, but they still need to learn more about what it takes to become a consistent, competitive squad. The match against Macedonia showed that they still have some way to go.
The impressive 30:28 win against Poland had created expectations over night and Norway’s first semi-final ever at a major championship was within reach. Macedonia had nothing at stake anymore. Of course, it is impressive to come back and earn one point after being five goals down, but it is not good enough when so much is at stake. Now, Norway will have to perform another miracle – this time against the defending champions from France – in their last main round match on Wednesday night in order to reach that historic semi-final after all.
Certainly, Macedonia is a tough opponent, when Kiril Lazarov has one of his better scoring days. In Macedonia´s 34:24 defeat against Croatia on Thursday evening, the star-player from Barcelona did not score a single goal and ended the match on the bench, holding his shoulder. Monday evening, there were no signs of shoulder problems when Lazarov scored 11 goals on 14 attempts.
One of the mysteries of the match was why Norway’s head coach Christian Berge did not order man-to-man coverage at a much earlier stage? When Berge finally did – after 43 minutes – it took his team exactly nine minutes to draw even at 28:28, courtesy of Kent Robin Tønnesen. Unfortunately, this was as far as Norway got and the historic semi-final is now reduced to a “nice thought”.
The many Polish fans, in attendance at Krakow’s Tauron Arena supported Macedonian enthusiastically during the hectic finish – realizing how much a Norwegian loss of points would mean for their own team´s chances going forward.
And Poland was quick to grab the unexpected gift. Jurecki & Co. had absolutely no problems against a weak Belarusian team that had to play without superstar Siarhei Rutenka – he left the field injured after a few minutes.
The hosts managed to get up by 10 goals before sloppiness took over, allowing Belarus to reduce the gap. Poland controls its destiny at the European Championship once again. A victory against Croatia on Wednesday evening will send the hosts to the semi-final. The only remaining question: Will the home team stumble again?