Norway face time to deliver
This is the first article in a series of 24, presenting all participants at the Men's EHF EURO 2022 in Hungary and Slovakia.
Norway have been far from true contenders in the first EHF EURO editions, but their performance has been nothing short of spectacular in recent years, with the emergence of a great generation of players, ready to take the team to the next level.
This will be the 10th edition of the EHF EURO in which Norway take part and with many of the players in their prime, they are poised to make another title challenge after the one they had at home two years ago.
Three questions ahead of the Men’s EHF EURO 2022
- Was the ceiling too high for them?
Since failing to qualify for the EHF EURO 2002 and 2004, Norway have been on an upwards trend. However, they consistently struggled to reach the podium, finishing fourth in 2016, sixth in 2008 and twice in seventh place. They have won silver at the IHF Men’s World Championship in 2017 and 2019 and the bronze two years ago at the EHF EURO 2020, but they failed to make the necessary next step and finished sixth at the 2021 World Championship and seventh at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Are they simply not good enough to strive for gold? Technically, the answer should be no. This is a golden generation, which has great chemistry and needs that extra bit of luck for everything to go their way. Whether that happens in January 2022, it is still to be seen. However, the window is closing fast.
- How will they cope with recent retirements?
The all-time Norwegian international with the most caps, line player Bjarte Myrhol with 263 matches, decided to end his career after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Ditto for the All-star left wing at the EHF EURO 2020, Magnus Jøndal, who scored 577 goals in 177 matches for the Scandinavian side between 2010 and 2021.
However, Norway’s big chance is they have plenty of depth in those positions and, while Jøndal and Myrhol are truly irreplaceable, they had some pretty good backups ready. Magnus Gullerud is a force to be reckoned with both in defence and in attack, while left wing Sebastian Barthold has not hade so many chances yet but is a very reliable scorer at club level for Aalborg Håndbold.
- Is this one final chance for coach Christian Berge to deliver the coveted gold medal?
Norway have dominated Women’s EHF EURO handball, winning the gold medal eight times, but had a see-saw form in the men’s competition, missing a main round berth in 2012 and 2014, but registering a resurgence after coach Christian Berge was appointed in 2014. In fact, Berge led Norway to their best finishes in the tournament: the fourth place in 2016 and the bronze medal on home court in 2020.
In a constantly changing ecosystem, like handball, an eight-year stint in one place is rarely considered, but the stone-cold Berge repaid the trust invested in him. He created a team where players are entering their prime and could be ready to deliver the first gold medal in a major tournament. Therefore, the pressure is not necessarily on Berge’s shoulders, but this is the point where Norway do really need to hit it big.
Under the spotlight: Sander Sagosen
Sagosen is hunting Roger Kjendalen’s record of 939 goals for the Scandinavian side. THW Kiel’s centre back still needs 284 more goals, but he is only 26 years old and has an enormous output, both at club level and for the national team. Two years ago, he became the top scorer of the EHF EURO 2020 by putting 65 goals past the opponent goalkeepers, the largest number of goals scored in a tournament by a single player.
He was also named in the All-star Team of the EHF EURO for the last three tournaments and no player scored more goals over these editions than Sagosen, who had 126. He is also one of the best assist providers in European handball and is still in great shape, scoring 40 goals for THW Kiel in the first 10 rounds of this season’s EHF Champions League Men.
A big plus. One will never see Norway backing down from a challenge or empowering other teams by playing the underdog card. The confidence, which can almost translate to arrogance at times, is a huge trump card for the Scandinavian side, helping them through thick and thin in the previous major tournaments they contended in.
Norway are the only current European powerhouse to have never won the Men’s EHF EURO or the EHF Champions League Men at club level.
What the numbers say
26 – the amount of wins Norway registered at the EHF EURO in their previous nine tournaments. 16 of them – or 61% – came in 2016, 2018 and 2020.
Men's EHF EURO participations (including 2022 edition): 10
Bronze (1): 2020
Fourth (1): 2016