It was probably Norway’s most disappointing win in an EHF EURO ever, as the Scandinavian side failed to earn a semi-final berth, after they failed short of their five-goals threshold against Sweden.
Therefore, France enter the game against Croatia knowing they progressed to the next phase, as they are already on eight points, while Sweden finished the group with six points.
“Tough game, a little strange to be disappointed with a win. Sweden are a good team and they played good enough to lose only by three goals,” said Norwegian right wing Kristian Bjornsen.
“To proceed to the semi-final we need a better defence. It is clear,” said Norwegian star Sander Sagosen after the loss against Croatia. It was also goalkeeper Torbjorn Bergerud who took the blame upon himself, vying to come back stronger against Sweden.
There probably were several conversations and plans put in motion for the Norwegian side to improve and that was clear from the first minute of the game against Sweden.
As Bergerud shone between the posts, with 11 saves, two from penalties, for a 50% save percentage, Norway scored easy goals, to jump to a 9:6 lead, despite an injury scare from Sagosen, who twisted his ankle early in the game.
But Sweden scraped to a one-goal deficit at half time, 12:11, with everything to play for in the second half, as goalkeeper Mikael Appelgren had eight saves of his own to keep Kristjan Andresson’s team alive.
Superb evening for Bergerud
In need of at least a five-goal win against Sweden, Norway started the second half with a 3:1 partial, but a missed chance to grab a three-goal lead which saw goalkeeper Andreas Palicka save Sagosen’s penalty brought back Sweden in the game, 15:15.
But Sweden found themselves trailing all the second half, failing to repeat the level of handball displayed against Croatia in the preliminary round.
With a superb 21-save game form Bergerud, Norway was still alive in the last part of the game, but struggled to widen the gap, as Sweden kept close, with Christian Berge’s side leading 26:24, with six minutes to go.
However, the final seconds of the game were keeping all the fans on their feet, as a four-goal Norway win could have propelled Croatia through to the next phase. But Bergerud’s saves could only do so much, with the three-goal win, 28:25, seeing Norway out of the competition.
Sweden will hope that Croatia lose against France in the last game of the group, any other result seeing France and Croatia qualify for the semi-final. “Les Experts” are already through, after five wins in their five games.
"When you lose you always know that you could play something better. It's hard to say directly after the game... but I think we played good handball. We had a lot of good chances but we didn't manage to score all of them," Swedish right wing Niclas Ekberg said.