BRONZE MEDAL MATCH – Russia 33:28 Norway
Russia claimed their first medal at a World Championship in 10 years, comfortably beating Norway in the opening act on the final day of action in Kumamoto.
With just one defeat in 10 matches, bronze is not the colour Russia were out here to claim, but the delight displayed at the final buzzer suggests they will rest easier now.
Before the match
For the two teams who between them have won seven of the last 10 world titles, the bronze medal match is not usually their jam.
But here they were, forced to pick themselves up after surprise semi-final defeats, Norway losing 28:22 to Spain and Russia falling 33:32 against the Netherlands, and act as the curtain-raiser on finals day at Japan 2019.
Both sides came out strong, clearly up for the fight, but it was Norway who raced into a 3:0 lead. It didn’t take long for Russia to find their rhythm, however, and they were soon on top of the contest.
The high intensity appeared to suit Russia. They converted their short attacks into goals with ease, while Norway saw a few too many balls go astray.
Trailing by four, Norway attempted to take Anna Vyakhireva out of the game with Herrem marking her, but Russia dealt with it easily and took an 18:15 lead into the dressing room, thanks to contributions throughout the team, including 18-year-old Elena Mikhaylichenko who made a surprise appearance and scored three.
Defence was becoming an afterthought here, but sure isn’t a bit of free-flowing attack and plenty of goals what you want to see in a bronze medal match?
Thankfully for Russia, Viktoriia Kalinina was doing a fine shift in goal, allowing them to extend their lead to six as we headed into the final quarter.
Emilie Hegh Arntzen and Stine Oftedal were banging in the goals for the Scandinavian side, but down the other end, they just couldn’t deal with Vyakhireva, who was magnificent again today with nine goals.
Russia’s scoring efficiency was outstanding today – 72%. The interesting thing here is how it compares to Norway, who took four more shots and scored five fewer goals. Neither side wasted time in attack, but it was Russia who consistently made the right shooting decisions over the 60 minutes.
When you look at the two keepers, there could only be one winner today. Viktoriia Kalinina produced a solid display with 12 saves and at 32%, double that of her opposite number Silje Solberg, who had an underwhelming end to what has otherwise been a brilliant tournament.