Turbulences won’t stop Norway

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Turbulences won’t stop Norway


December 2, 2016




Nora Mørk is quite unhappy that her twin sister has not been nominated, and in Norway’s media, head coach Thorir Hergeirsson is being criticized for a number of other players that he invited to the team – a situation not unlike last year’s ahead of the 2015 World Championship, which Norway won after all.

Most likely Norway will be experienced enough to forget all the turmoil and focus on winning another title – even without pregnant Heidi Løke.

By Peter Bruun

 Norway´s record is impressive, to say the least.  Six European championships, three World Championships and two Olympic gold medals – not to mention all their silver and bronze medals.

The squad from Norway are the favorites once again, even though there are disagreements amongst the players, in a way that we are not used to at this point of the year.  The reason is Nora Mørk.

Several times has she stated that she is highly discontent with the fact that her twin sister, Thea, has not been nominated to the Norwegian national handball team.

“This is not a good time to make such a statement,” said former Norwegian international and current expert commentator at Norwegian TV 2, Randi Gustad.  It is impossible to disagree with Gustad.

Creating upset and discord right before a major tournament is definitely no good idea. mOf course, there is freedom of speech – especially in Norway – and of course, Nora Mørk is allowed to say what she wants, but she is certainly not doing her team any favors at this point in time.

She is not the only one who has questioned national coach Thorir Hergeirsson´s selection of players that will travel to EURO’16 in Sweden.  Norway’s media outlets have been very outspoken as well, disagreeing with several of the chosen players, just as they did ahead of the World Championship last year.

Back then the critics were silenced by Norway winning the tournament – the best way to deal with such matters, by the way.

Twelve months ago, the issue was all about goalkeeper Katrine Lunde not being nominated, which caused a media upheaval.  Now, it is about leaving Champions League top scorer Linn-Kristin Riegelhuth Koren at home.  Admittedly, this decision does look surprising, when considering Riegelhuth´s performance during the fall, especially in the Champions League.  Apparently, Hergeirsson has been weighing other factors before denying Riegelhuth-Koren another run for gold.

The entire debate has shifted focus away from what seems to be Norway´s biggest problem ahead of the championship in Sweden – the absence of Heidi Løke.

The fact that the experienced line player – perhaps the best in the world – is out due to pregnancy is a severe handicap for Norway, and it puts additional pressure on Marit Malm Frafjord.

The real question is if Norway can effectively fill the void that Løke leaves behind and still take another title.  In my opinion – yes, they can!

Prediction

Norway are favorites to win Group D in very close competition with Russia and Romania being the dark horse.

In the main round, Montenegro or Denmark or Hungary will not pose a serious threat, and neither should any opponent they might face in the quarter-final.

Norway should reach the semi-finals without too much trouble, and it certainly would not be a major surprise, if the Scandinavians go all the way while taking their seventh European title.  In fact, if I were a gambler, I would probably put my money on them.

Three-to-Watch

Stine Bredal Oftedal –(Playmaker)

Norway´s offense very much depends on 25-year-old Oftedal.

Although she plays in a club outside the European limelight – Issy Paris Hand – she has been able to maintain a high international level, and the speed she adds to the game, is essential to Norway´s success.

Veronica Kristiansen – (Left-Back / Center Back)

26-year-old Kristiansen has been crucial to FC Midtjylland´s fine performance during the Champions- as well as Danish league, and she will be just as important to Norway´s ambitions to add another title to their collection.

In Midtjylland, she has been playing center back for the most part, with Danish international Stine Jørgensen on the left side, but the fact that she can play both positions equally well, obviously make her an even greater asset to her team.

A Norwegian backcourt line including Kristiansen, Oftedal and Mørk certainly looks impressive, doesn´t it?

Marit Malm Frafjord – (Line Player) 

On purpose, I did not mention Nora Mørk among Norway´s three key players.

Of course, we all know that her shooting abilities will be extremely critical to Norway, but three other players seem to be even more important, and Frafjord is definitely one of them.

The number one reason?  The absence of Heidi Løke.  It will mean a lot of work for 31-year-old and 182 cm tall Frafjord at both ends of the court.  Not only is she the player who will hold Norway’s defense together – now, she is also the main line player when in attack.

 

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