Finishing fourth at the EHF EURO 2016 in Poland and winning silver at the World Championship 2017 in France, Norway have got the taste of success as the men’s team are beginning to step out of the shadow of the national women’s team.
At the EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia, Norway will be eager to continue on their successful path where they made their first steps in Poland two years ago, and the chance is definitely there.
As Norway have steered clear of injuries so far, national coach Christian Berge will be able to take his strongest possible squad to Croatia.
The biggest stars are obviously playmaker Sander Sagosen, line player Bjarte Myrhol and goalkeeper Torbjørn Bergerud, but in general the squad appear to be very strong and versatile, and consist of players who have worked up a good deal of international experience over the past years.
Also, there appears to be a good balance between attacking players and skilled defenders, while goalkeeper Espen Christensen is a strong backup for Bergerud.
The success of the Norwegian’s attacking play obviously depends a lot on a Sander Sagosen.
At his former club, Aalborg Handbold, the 22-year-old Sagosen was mainly playing on the left back, while his current employer, Paris SG, are using him as a centre back as well.
In the Norwegian national team, however, he is almost always in the middle of the backcourt line, organising the team’s attacking play, and usually doing that very well.
When Sagosen needs a break, Christian O’Sullivan is a highly qualified stand-in as playmaker, while Espen Lie Hansen on the left back as well as Kent Robin Tønnesen and Eivind Tangen on the opposite back position will also have to do well in order to bring Norway success.
The Norwegian attack also depends a lot on Bjarte Myrhol.
The experienced line player from Danish top team Skjern Handbold will likely meet the expectations as stability and reliability are key words for him.
The Norwegian 6-0 defence usually appears solid and provides good working conditions for the goalkeepers Torbjørn Bergerud and Espen Christensen, who form a very consistent duo.
In the defence in front of those two shot-stoppers, Bjarte Myrhol is just as important as he is in the attack. As an experienced and physically strong central defender, he is the main player to tie the defence together, but Norway have many fine defenders.
For instance, Sander Sagosen has also proved to be great in the defence, where his uncompromising approach has often been an advantage to his team.
In general, Norway have several players who are equally good at both ends of the court, and this has also turned into a great base for their fast breaks in which their wings Kristian Bjørnsen and Magnus Jøndal play a big part.
Not long before the successful World Championship 2017, the Norwegian chess player Magnus Carlsen won the world title. Experts have characterised Carlsen as the most brilliant chess player of all times, but Norway’s national handball coach, Christian Berge, seems to have a brilliantly working chess-like brain, too.
The former playmaker in the Norwegian national team as well as at SG Flensburg-Handewitt has shown again and again what a tactical genius he is.
He is always very well prepared for Norway’s upcoming opponents, but he never adjusts his team’s way of playing too much to their opponents. Also, he is very good at coaching and talking to his players, which further add to his success as coach.
Having been in charge of the Norwegian national team since 2015, he has only been used to success so far, and more success for him in Croatia seems more than possible.
In Group B in Porec, the Norwegians will be up against France, Belarus and Austria. Apart from the French world champions, the group doesn’t look too frightening from a Norwegian perspective.
Moving on to the main round is a must for Norway, and taking a useful amount of points with them also appears realistic. In the main round, they will meet the three best teams from Group A, consisting of Croatia, Sweden, Serbia and Iceland.
The Croatian hosts are likely to become a tough challenge here, while duels with neighbours Sweden are always something special. Serbia and Iceland are not easy to play, either, but the Norwegians don’t have a reputation for escaping challenges.
The 18 players selected by Norway for the Men’s EHF EURO 2018:
Goalkeepers: Espen Christensen (GWD Minden), Torbjørn Bergerud (TTH Holstebro), Kristian Sæverås, HK Malmø)
Left backs: Espen Lie Hansen (HC Midtjylland), Gøran S. Johannessen (GOG Svendborg)
Left wing: Magnus Jøndal (GOG Svendborg)
Centre backs: Gøran Sørheim (Drammen HK), Christian O'Sullivan (SC Magdeburg), Sander Sagosen, Paris Saint-Germain Handball
Line players: Magnus Gullerud (GWD Minden), Henrik Jakobsen (GOG Svendborg), Bjarte Myrhol (Skjern Håndbold), Joakim Hykkerud (Drammen HK)
Right backs: Harald Reinkind (Rhein-Neckar Löwen), Eivind Tangen (HC Midtjylland), Kent Robin Tønnesen (Vezprém HC), Magnus Abelvik Rød (SG Flensburg-Handewitt)
Right wing: Kristian Bjørnsen (HSG Wetzlar)