Day 16: Norway and France to play the EHF EURO 2020 final

NEWS: Norway come back to beat Denmark after France cruise to victory over Croatia

Norway will play France in the EHF EURO 2020 final? Photo © Anze Malorvh / kolektiff

It's Friday 18 December and that means it's semi-finals day at the Women's EHF EURO 2020. Action begins early with the 5/6 placement match before attention turns to the teams vying for a place in Sunday's final


That's it for the evening - tomorrow there'll be more reaction of today's results and a look ahead to Sunday, with another episode of the official podcast to look forward to. We leave you with a quote from Norway's top scorer Nora Mørk - her return to international handball could end up being a golden one.


Kari Dale was named the Grundfos Player of the Match for Norway. The line player was barely off court, playing over 57 minutes, and covering more than 4.5km of distance in that time, as well as scoring four goals from five attempts.

21:59 | NORWAY 27:24 DENMARK

Norway's small band of teammates and staff in the stands started singing before the buzzer went, knowing their team had secured a historic comeback to secure the win and the place in the final. History repeats itself for Denmark - they lose another semi-final in Herning, 10 years after missing out to Norway at the EHF EURO 2010.


Stine Oftedal takes Norway up 27:23. Trine Østergaard scores from the wing, but Norway hold a three-goal advantage with less than three minutes left.


Jensen called another time-out; Mette Tranborg's shot was saved by Katrine Lunde. Thorir Hergeirsson then calls a time-out himself, the third in about five minutes - evidently he had more to say to his team. Five minutes and 20 seconds to go.


Jesper Jensen calls a time-out as Sanna Solberg-Isaksen again gives Norway a two-goal lead. Norway have outscored Denmark 14:9 in this half and are beginning to look more confident that they can win this.


Norway go up 23:21 thanks to Henny Reistad, but almost immediately Line Haugsted brings it back to 23:22!


Fast, fast play! 10 goals in six minutes and they just keep on coming. It's now 19:19!


Stine Oftedal equalises at 14:14. Denmark's mistakes have allowed Norway to get back into the match, cheered on with shouts of "Norge" from their squadmates in the tribune.


Thorir Hergeirsson has put Katrine Lunde in goal at the start of the second half and she makes a good start with a save. But then at the other end of the court Norway fumble the ball and there's nothing stopping Mia Rej's fast break.


There was a period of over 20 minutes in the first half where the only Norwegian goals were scored by Nora Mørk. That ended just before the buzzer, when Camilla Herrem finally found the net after two failed attempts earlier, and then Veronica Kristiansen scored this absolute rocket of a shot to keep Norway within three.


This is the game we have been all waiting form and, let’s just say, it is barely like anything we could have expected. Norway were flawless up until this point, winning six games and scoring at a record pace in the EHF EURO.

But Norway know that one defeat can stop the quest for the gold medal. And it looks like, for the first time, a team which starts with six wins in a row at the EHF EURO may not win the competition.

It is a testament of how hard Denmark play defence that Norway scored only six goals in the first 19 minutes and only 10 in the first half. Five of these goals have been scored by Nora Mørk, three of which came from penalties. In fact, Norway’s attack, which has been scoring at 58 per cent throughout the tournament, was limited to only 45 per cent in the first half.

Sure, there are still 30 minutes to be played and Norway are not a team to be joked around with. They have plenty of firepower and, crucially, the experience and the know-how to mount comebacks. But if Denmark have the stamina to keep up that work in defence, it will be a mountain to climb.

PS: Do not forget Sandra Toft. If there were still questions about her importance to the Danish team, her performance tonight has cemented her place between the all-time great goalkeepers for Denmark. Up until this point, Toft saved eight shots for a 44 per cent efficiency - against Norway, a team that produced goals at an all-time high at the EHF EURO.


Sandra Toft is once again magnificent in the Danish goal and the rest of her team are helping out by defending well against Norway. It's 12:8 as the first period ticks away; Norway are under serious pressure.


Denmark have two players suspended and are playing five against six, giving Norway an opening - but they then steal the ball and are in possession again. Norway are uncharacteristically error-prone so far and Denmark are giving them their sternest test yet. Denmark score once more and go up 11:8.


Now it's 8:5 to Denmark and Mia Rej has netted half of the hosts' goals. What an extraordinary start for her.


The pace is ridiculous here! The ball is zipping from one end of the court to the other with three goals just now inside 30 seconds. Denmark lead 6:4.


Stine Oftedal scores first for Norway, and from then on the two sides have been exchanging goals. Mia Rej has scored all three of Denmark's so far and took them briefly 3:2 up before Malin Aune equalised just nine seconds later. 


And we're off with the second semi-final! Sandra Toft denies Camilla Herrem's first attempt and Silje Solberg stops Mie Højlund.


It cannot get any bigger than this, it cannot get any more interesting than this. Norway and Denmark top the historic standings, winning 10 of the 13 EHF EURO tournaments played and are facing off in a tense semi-final, 10 years to the date since Norway handed Denmark one of their worst losses ever, 19:29, in the EHF EURO 2010 semi-final, here in Herning.

The two Nordic powerhouses top almost each and every meaningful statistic. While Norway (205) have scored more goals than second-placed Denmark (166), the Danish side tops the chart for goals conceded, 134, only two less than second-placed Norway. Both their goalkeepers are in superb form, with Norway’s Katrine Lunde saving 39 per cent of the shots, while Denmark’s Sandra Toft is close behind, with a 38 per cent efficiency.

There will be pressure for both teams, as there is so much at stake, but we probably will witness a game for the ages. Denmark are in their “dream scenario”, while Norway have the most experienced team in the competition, with an average age of 29.8 years old.


Kalidiatou Niakate was named Grundfos Player of the Match for France, with her first-half performance being key to the title-holders' victory.


France have been celebrating each of their wins at the EHF EURO 2020 by holding up a number of fingers corresponding to the number of wins so far. They're at six now - will they make it seven on Sunday?


France are singing and hugging and are overjoyed with that performance. 


France are through to their second successive EHF EURO final and will get the chance to defend their title, after a comprehensive victory over Croatia. Croatia were much, much better in the second half but could not withstand France's superior skill and power. They will get the chance to fight for bronze on Sunday.


Croatia have tripled their score now, but France have added another 11 goals and lead 26:15. Amandine Leynaud is on the bench and Cléopatre Darleux is doing an excellent job in goal - both French keepers have a save percentage of 38 per cent.


France open up a 10-goal lead again as Pauletta Foppa gets past Tea Pijevic. Croatia have been much better this half but France are not letting them make any dent in the lead.


Valentina Blazevic scores Croatia's fifth goal of the second half - it's taken them under seven minutes to equal their first-half score and they've even managed a couple of steals too. 


It's a better start by Croatia, who have scored three to France's one in the four minutes of play so far and are finding more ways past the French defensive wall.


Croatia's first-half score of five goals was the lowest in any EHF EURO semi-final. Time to see what they have in them now as we resume.


France's power and experience are encapsulated in this shot on the buzzer by Kalidiatou Niakate, who scored four goals from five attempts in the first half.


France are so far fulfilling the expectations of many, controlling the first semi-final with their defence that is forcing Croatia to some critical lost balls. In France’s goal, Amandine Leynaud’s save rate has been increasing with the clock – although she has faced very few shots due to the highly effective defence in front of her.

The biggest question was how France would quieten Croatia’s top scorer Camila Micijevic – they did it with a 5-1 defence concentrated on her that has meant the back managed only one goal in the opening 30 minutes. Coach Nenad Sostaric rotated the back court to try working with the fastest players instead, but France’s 6-0 has been the perfect solution for that as well.

With such a gap at the break, it’s clear Croatia have some wrinkles to iron out, at both ends of the court, if they are to fight back and book the first ticket to the final.


For a while luck seemd to have turned and Croatia were managing a little better, but there are still too many errors that are costing them dearly. France lead 12:4.


It's not going Croatia's way. A few shots have gone high, or long, or been saved by Amandine Leynaud, and they haven't scored for 10 minutes now. Meanwhile France have gone on an 9:0 run and are 11:3 up.


Croatia are in trouble. A few mistakes and France lead 7:3. Nenad Sostaric calls a time-out - and this is hardly the first time his team have found themselves in this position during the tournament. The challenge now is to mount their usual comeback.


It's been a very physical start to the match and so far fairly equal with just under 10 minutes gone. Grace Zaadi Deuna has just scored to put France up 4:3 and then a high shot by Dora Krsnik gave the ball back to France, to be netted by their captain Siraba Dembélé Pavlovic.

Nevertheless, Tea Pijevic began well for Croatia.


It took Croatia a while to break through the French defence but shortly before the 90 second mark Larissa Kalaus scored. Croatia have begun with both Kalaus and Camila Micijevic on court. 

Grace Zaadi Deuna has equalised for France.


The title holder against the most surprising team of the tournament, everything separates France from Croatia. The red and white squad went through this EURO relying on their innocence and freshness, while France relied on their experience.

Les Bleues will have to kill Croatia's hopes right from the start, as their opponent will have nothing to lose. The longer Tea Pijevic's teammates remain in the game, the more dangerous they will be. 


The teams are about to be announced! Make sure you're also following our Instagram story for more behind-the-scenes action and clips.


We are all very excited here because it's just 30 minutes until the first semi-final! Can Croatia surprise us once again or will the defending champions' experience make the difference?

When Croatia and France take the court for the first semi-final, it will be a case of first-time semi-finalists in any competition versus a well-seasoned side in the final stages of major championships. Croatia have never played for a medal, while France count a total of 10 across the EHF EURO, World Championships and Olympic Games.

But we know that the past means nothing at this EURO, as Croatia have forced us to forget that they lost all their matches at the last two editions with their great campaign in Denmark. Most are tipping France as the favourites here, but I am more hesitant to go against Croatia. We cannot underestimate their mentality and the great feeling they have right now, the way Nenad Sostaric will prepare them and the experience of players like Tea Pijevic and Camila Micijevic at Metz Handball.

Micijevic could be just the right weapon to cause a lot of trouble for France’s defence – perhaps the more pressing question is how Croatia’s defence will measure up against the title holders’ attack.

Whatever happens, I’m sure we are in for a memorable match to get the final weekend well and truly started. 




No surprises in the Grundfos Player of the Match choice for the placement match - it's Russian goalkeeper Viktoriia Kalinina, integral to her side's victory. Here are her highlights.


Galina Gabisova makes a good double save to end the match. Russia finish their EHF EURO 2020 campaign in fifth place, and the Netherlands are sixth. Russia only lost one game and drew one during the competition, but such are the mathematics of the tournament that they still ended out of the medals.


A decent save from Tess Wester earlier on. The Netherlands are continuing to fight but with four goals to make up and five minutes in which to do it, it doesn't seem likely they can win this.


One thing that has worked for the Netherlands tonight is Lois Abbingh and penalty shots. She's scored five from five, in addition to four field goals, therefore contributing to well over a third of the 23 goals the Dutch have so far managed to net. It's 29:23 with eight minutes on the clock.


Russia still lead and have extended their margin to 25:18 in what is becoming a slightly scrappy game.


The second period throws off. It's a little better by the Netherlands, with Lois Abbingh scoring followed by two from Angela Malestein, against two for Russia, to close up to 20:16.


Coach Ambros Martin was let go before the 5/6 placement match against the Netherlands, but it is business as usual for Russia, who have their eyes set on the fifth place at the EHF EURO 2020. The start of the game was superb for the Russian side, as they jumped early to a 7:2 lead, thanks to five fabulous saves from goalkeeper Viktoriia Kalinina and four goals scored by right wing Iuliia Managarova.

It was not complacency from the Dutch side that made Russia take a lead at the break that really looks unassailable, but rather the usual Russian game plan playing out.

The difference? Clearly in attacking efficiency. The Netherlands are not really stopping Russia, who hit 75 per cent of their shots, while the reigning world champions have only scored a meagre 48 per cent. But are Russia able to keep this up?


What a game so far by Viktoriia Kalinina! Earlier on she was on a massive 71 per cent save rate - that's dropped now to 41 per cent with seven saves from 17 shots, but it's keeping Russia ahead at 14:10. Tess Wester has also faced 17 shots but has only saved three.


Iuliia Managarova's third goal this afternoon was her 100th EHF EURO goal - she's scored 57 for Ukraine and 43 since starting to play for Russia.

The Netherlands mounted a bit of a fight, spurred by a decent save from Tess Wester, and another penalty brings them back within two goals of their opponents at 6:8.


Clipboard in hand, Emmanuel Mayonnade has called his first time-out. It's been a poor start by the Netherlands, who have missed a couple of shots. Playing with an empty goal when Lois Abbingh was sitting out a suspension they conceded three goals and are now 2:6 down as Russia take advantage of every error.


The 5/6 placement match is underway! Iuliia Managarova scored for Russia very quickly and Viktoriia Kalinina then made an excellent save to keep Russia ahead. After a bit of back-and-forth play Daria Dmitrieva received a two-minute suspension for fouling Kelly Dulfer, who got knocked to the floor quite hard,  but Kalinina then saved Bo van Wetering's attempt at a shot and Ksneiia Makeeva scored as Russia took possession again.

Lois Abbingh has finally got the Netherlands on the board with a successful penalty and it's 2:1.


Follow Russia's journey from their hotel in nearby Silkeborg to the Jyse Bank BOXEN in Herning. They've made the trip for the last time, but will they go home in fifth or sixth place?


The countdown has begun - less than 30 minutes until the 5/6 placement match between the Netherlands and Russia throws off to begin the final weekend!

Originally the 5/6 placement match could have been crucial for a direct spot for the World Championship 2021 in Spain, with four automatic places available for the top four teams at the EHF EURO besides hosts Spain and reigning world champions the Netherlands. As neither Spain nor the Dutch made it to the semi-finals, those four tickets go to France, Croatia, Denmark and Norway.

But there is still honour to play for. “No matter who is our coach, we play for our country,” said Valeriia Maslova before this duel.

After the Russians missed the semi-finals due to the defeat against Denmark, they parted ways with head coach Ambros Martin with immediate effect – and now it is the job for assistant coach Tomas Hlavaty and the rest of the staff. Slovak Hlavaty was previously Martin’s assistant at Györ.

One year ago, the Netherlands hit the Russian bear in the heart by causing their only defeat in the whole World Championship in Japan, at the toughest possible moment, the semi-final. So maybe this defeat is Russia’s motivation for today. Meanwhile the Netherlands want to finish this EHF EURO with their third straight victory after their weak start with two defeats.



The Netherlands and Metz coach Emmanuel Mayonnade has featured in an interview with L’Equipe discussing the opening semi-final, France vs Croatia. Mayonnade thinks the title-holders will be capable of taking the win against the surprise team of the EURO and highlights Croatia’s defence as their key weapon – which is, of course, also France’s main strength. 

Read the full interview (in French) here.


She's bound to add some more goals tonight, but here Nora Mørk talks about her most important goal scored at an EHF EURO.


Last but not least in the features on the semi-finalists, it's Norway. Unbeaten this tournament and the record European champions, they haven't had to wait this long for a trophy in 16 years with their last major title being the EHF EURO 2016. Can they break their duck in Herning?


A few replacements have been announced this morning. Norway have reversed the replacement they made for Tuesday's match against Hungary, and brought a now-rested Veronica Kristiansen back in, taking out Marta Tomac. 

Croatia have replaced left back Kristina Prkacin, who has played just six minutes so far, with ZRK Umag's Marijeta Vidak in the same position. Vidak had 22 caps before the tournament compared to Prkacin's 13.

Russia have taken out right back Antonina Skorobogatchenko, who has had a good tournament but suffered an injury in the match against Denmark. In her place they've brought in a third goalkeeper, Rostov-Don's Galina Gabisova. 


Continuing our series of features focusing on tonight's semi-finalists, we turn to France and an interview with their defensive specialist Béatrice Edwige. She talks about the importance of defence and her partnership with Amandine Leynaud to the French effort, and also reveals which team members are responsible for well-being in the red bubble.


Anja Althaus is no stranger to the big stage. Yesterday she shared some thoughts on what it feels like to play an EHF EURO semi-final. 


The second semi-final today is a replay of a match that took place here in Herning exactly 10 years ago - a semi-final between Norway and Denmark. Norway won in 2010, but Denmark are riding a resurgent wave and are confident they can overturn the record champions.



Want to know about the history between the semi-finalists? Then read our previews. First up, France vs Croatia. France are vastly more experienced than their young rivals - did you know that both Estelle Nze Minko and Grace Zaadi Deuna have played twice the number of EHF EURO matches as Croatia's most experienced player, captain Katarina Jezic? 


The first match today is the 5/6 placement match at 15:30 CET and if you want to be in with a chance of winning some of our great prizes in the Predict & Win game you have until then to make your guesses. Click here!


What better way to start your semi-finals day than listening to the latest episode of the official EHF EURO 2020 podcast? Today the (Un)informed Handball Hour talk us through the semi-finals, take an audio journey through Croatia's tournament, and discuss the challenges 2020 has brought with EHF secretary general Martin Hausleitner. 

written by ehf-euro.com