The handball boys meet nightmare opponents – VG

Tough RESISTANCE: Sander Sagosen and the Norwegian men’s national team will meet Spain in the group stage of the Olympics. Photo: PETR DAVID JOSEK / POOL

This summer, Norway travels to Tokyo with a men’s team in Olympic handball for the first time since 1972. There they will face up against nightmare opponent Spain. The Norwegian women’s team meets, among others, the reigning world champion Netherlands.

Published:Just updated

It became clear in Thursday’s draw. Norway has teams in both classes for the first time.

This is how the Olympic groups for men will be:

A: Norway, France, Germany, Brazil, Spain and Argentina.

B: Denmark (defending champion), Sweden, Portugal, Japan, Egypt and Bahrain.

There is tough opposition for the Norwegian handball boys. Spain is a team Norway has struggled against for a number of years and Norway has not won in the last 18 matches against the Spaniards.

Norway last played Spain in the World Cup quarter-finals in Egypt in January, which ended with a 31-26 victory for Spain.

The previous Norwegian victory against Spain came back in 1997 and since then there have been 17 losses and one draw for the Norwegian handball masters against Spain.

– Our whole group is very tough, but that’s how it is when the world’s best team is involved. Group B is probably a little easier. We feel we have a little revenge against both France and Spain. We did not perform as we wanted against them in the last championship (World Cup in Egypt), says national team manager Christian Berge to NTB.

EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS: Nora Mørk and the Norwegian women’s national team took European Championship gold in December after beating France in the final. Photo: Bjørn S. Delebekk

The Norwegian women’s national team has been drawn in Group A against the Netherlands, Montenegro, South Korea, Angola and Japan.

Norway competes in the Olympics as reigning European champions, while the Netherlands are reigning world champions after the World Cup gold in 2019.

In Group B, Spain, Hungary, Sweden, France, Brazil and a team representing the Russian Olympic Committee play.

The Norwegian team took Olympic gold in both 2008 and 2012, while it won bronze during the Olympics in 2016 and gold to Russia.

– It was as we usually say. Nice draw. We take the ones we get. We can not control the draw, so then it will be as it is, says national team coach Thorir Hergeirsson to VG.

– We know that if we are at our best, then we can beat all teams. We also know that the level is so high in this tournament that we have to do our best, he says, and adds that he thinks this summer’s Olympic tournament will be among the smoothest ever.

– Last 14 days ago we got a bank from Montenegro. Japan and Angola are stronger than the teams from those continents often have been and we know that Korea is good when it comes to the Olympics, says the national team coach.

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Japan could choose which group they want to play in. The International Handball Federation (IHF) chose to give them the advantage of hosting the Olympics.

The Olympic tournaments are played from 24 July to 8 August with matches for each gender every other day. The men start up the day after the Olympic opening.

Twelve teams in each class participate in the Tokyo Games. The top four nations from each pool advance to the quarterfinals.

Norway recently went to the Olympics for both sexes through qualifying games. The handball boys did it without difficulty over three games in Montenegro. In the same place, the far more meritorious women’s team redeemed a ticket with a cry of distress.

The Norwegian teams go to Japan well in advance. The preliminary departure date is set for 12 July.

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