Norway defeat France to claim 2021 Women's Handball World Championship

A second half blitz gave a relentless Norway victory over Olympic champs France courtesy of six goals from Henny Reistad and the Nora Mork - Stine Oftedal connection.

By Ken Browne
Picture by Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Norway are the winners of the 2021 IHF Women's Handball World Championships after a pulsating 29-22 victory over France.

Tokyo 2020 bronze medallists Norway are World champions for a fourth time, defeating the reigning Olympic champions after a typically spirited come-from-behind performance.

The first half belonged to France as they defended resolutely and shot with an uncommon accuracy to lead at half time by 16-12, roared on by a strong French contingent in the Palau d'Esports in Granollers in the north of Spain, not far from the French border.

But a Norwegian blitz on either side of the break left the French reeling and Norway never let up, outscoring the French by 17-6 in a crushing second half showing.

Huge performances from the big three of Henny Reistad - who topped the match scoring with six goals - and Nora Mork and Stine Oftedal - who had five each - brought it home.

They were ably backed by a big contribution from 'keeper Silje Solberg who made 12 saves - 10 of them coming in the second half.

For France the standout players were Pauletta Foppa who gave Norway a torrid time on the line in the first half, scoring three goals and Allison Pineau had a perfect 4/4 before the goals dried up in the second half.

The day belonged to Norway however, and 2020 European champions are now equal with the Russian Handball Federation for the most World handball titles in history.

Earlier Denmark defeated hosts Spain 35-28 to claim third place.

France start strong, Norway turn it around

A remarkable comeback from Norway earned them the title, with five minutes to go in the first half they were five goals down and it looked like France could run away with it.

Grace Zaadi was excellent in the first half, leading in defence and attack, scoring the goal that put France 11-7 up with seven minutes on the clock to go in the first half.

Then winger Granier put France five ahead and it looked like Norway were hanging on.

Suddenly Zaadi had to go off with a face injury and a penalty/faulty substitution had France shorthanded, Norway sparked into life.

France had an eight minute spell where they scored five without reply before Norway hit back with six unanswered goals on either side of the break.

Oftedal, Mork and Reistad came out at the start of the second half in mean form, buzzing about and finding those piercing passes around the D for Kari Brattset Dale who finished the game with a perfect five goals from five shots.

Reistad found her range from distance with the kind of outside shooting that France could only dream of and the French had no answer as Solberg defied them time and time again, the Norwegian attack a runaway train.

France can be proud of an incredible year where they've made all three major finals at the Euros, the Olympics, and the Worlds, winning their first ever Olympic title at Tokyo 2020.

But on the night the biggest celebrations belonged to Norway, who might feel a sense of redemption after they went into Tokyo 2020 as many peoples' favourite for gold, but took home bronze.

France were crowned world champions in Spain, and deservedly so.

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