What made Norway so strong in 2008?

POLL: Among all the titles they have won, Norway’s gold race at the Women’s EHF EURO 2008 is often regarded the Scandinavians’ best ever performance

Goalkeeper Katrine Lunde put on a stand-out performance at the EHF EURO 2008.

It was probably the longest winning ceremony, it was definitely the biggest gap (34:21) in a Women’s EHF EURO final.

And it was maybe the best ever performance by record champions Norway.

Even though top star Gro Hammerseng-Edin had retired from the national team after winning Olympic gold at the 2008 Beijing Games and left back Katja Nyberg was injured, the Norwegians played out of their skin at the Women’s EHF EURO 2008 in North Macedonia.

On Monday (8 June), fans can relive the Norwegian 2008 triumph as their final against Spain will be shown in full again on the EHF EURO Facebook page and YouTube channel from 18:00 CEST.

After the opening draw with eventual finalists Spain, Norway won all their matches - by at least six goals.

Norway had the best attack, they had four All-star Team players in their squad, including the MVP and top scorer - there was nothing more to win at this tournament.

But what was the biggest asset of Norway in 2008, what made them so strong? Pick your favourite out of these five answers to this question.

The coach

After 14 years on the Norwegian bench, and winning all major titles on European, world and Olympic level, legendary coach Marit Breivik had her swansong at the EHF EURO 2008. Breivik guided several golden generations of players and turned many talents into world stars. The coach was known for her democratic approach, involving the players in her decisions. Breivik had her finest duels with Russian counterpart Evgeni Trefilov, who had a completely contrasting coaching style. In 2008, Breivik ended Trefilov’s hope for his first EHF EURO trophy in the semi-final.

The goalkeeper

“Having Katrine Lunde on goal means a kind of guarantee to win all competitions, regardless if it’s with your club or the national team,” said EHF EURO 2008 All-star right back Grit Jurack (Germany) about her former Viborg teammate. Lunde excelled the whole tournament and there was no question about the goalkeeper in the All-star Team. Lunde finished the event with 88 saves, a percentage of 47.

The defence

56 steals and 34 blocked shots, and a highly anticipative way of defending, always trying to immediately start counterattacks: Norway’s defence was another key to the team’s success. No other team had understood the idea of defence as beginning of attacks in the same way Breivik had implemented it.

The playmaker

Who could fill the shoes of the great Gro Hammerseng-Edin? This question was answered in an impressive way by Kristine Lunde. She led the assists ranking (36) and finished fifth in the overall goal and assist ranking, with 61. But numbers cannot fully express her importance for the Norwegian side. Lunde was the undoubted leader in attack, with inspiration, ideas and intelligence, and deservedly became the MVP of the EHF EURO 2008.

The attack

No team scored more goals, no team won their matches with bigger differences. Norway’s 24:18 win, with a demonstration of power, against Russia in the semi-final was the ‘tightest’ result alongside the 37:31 win against Romania in the last and unimportant main round match. The 34:21 against Spain was the biggest victory in any Women’s or Men’s EHF EURO final. Wing and counterattack specialist Linn-Kristin Riegelhuth-Koren was the top scorer of the EHF EURO 2008 with 51 goals. But others, such as Tonje Larsen, Tonje Nostvold, Katrine Lunde or Kari Mette Johansen, showed a similar strength to the eventual IHF World Player of the Year as they all scored at least 25 times during the tournament.

written by Björn Pazen / ew