It’s Norway against Montenegro for the gold.
Most handball experts picked Norway to go all the way.
But not too many figured Montenegro, a country who was officially recognized as an Olympic nation in 2007, would be the other finalist.
Blame it on the tournament format or the Olympic spirit but there is something about the Olympics that brings the best out of the “Davids” of the world. It was Iceland in the men’s program in Beijing. And the tiny Balkan country of Montenegro this year.
Norway, the reigning women’s champions, is peaking at the right time. Stuck in neutral during the group stage, Norway kicked it up a notch in the knock out stage. After sending Brasil home on Tuesday, it was South Korea’s turn on Thursday. They too fell to the current Olympic champions.
The 31:25 win was never in doubt, as Norway dominated both facets of the game. On paper, South Korea has what it takes to counter the more experienced and physical Norwegians. They have speed and technique and an infectious appetite for offense. But yesterday, Norway’s defensive schemes thwarted Korea’s quick attacks with ease. And when the defense failed , Katrine Lunde – Norway’s veteran goalie – was there for the key stops.
The surprise came on offense, where the slower and less technical Norwegians, took the game to South Korea. Relying on its quickness, not speed, the offense caught the Koreans napping several times, sending them scrambling on defense, unable to close the gaps. As mentioned before, Norway’s resurgence is more about timing than anything. South Korea simply peaked too early, which is unfortunate for handball fans since it played the best and most complete women’s handball in London.
Korea will go for bronze when they take on Spain this coming Saturday.
Spain lost to Montenegro 27:26 in the other semifinal.
It was the first ever semifinal appearance for either team, so naturally something had to give. Spain blinked first late in the game. That allowed Montenegro to extend the lead to 4 goals. It was then too little, too late for Spain who could not find an answer to Montenegro’s backcourt tandem of Bulatovic and Popovic.
The two combined for 15 goals. Spain countered with 5 goals from Ibanez (LB) and another 5 from Sanez (W).
In hindsight, the game was won by Montenegro on fast breaks, where they outscored Spain 4 to 1.
And because it still is USATH’s dark horse to win it all.