Final: Denmark and Norway vie for first world title

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A new world champion will be crowned on Sunday evening in Jyske Bank Boxen, Herning, after Norway and Denmark meet in the IHF World Championship final for what is the first mutual clash for this title. Neither of the Scandinavian sides have ever won the World Championship trophy, though both have contested the final before.

Norway reached the World Championship trophy match for the first time in 2017. Though they claimed what was their first ever medal at a major international event on that occasion, the team were disappointed to walk away without the gold. The 2017 runners-up are hungry to stand out top of a podium and will likely have some new tricks up their sleeves following their preliminary round loss versus the current Olympic title holders.

Norway are already responsible for ending the dream of one of the World Championship co-hosts, as they defeated Germany in a sold-out Barclaycard Arena, Hamburg on Friday night. Norway dominated the match against the same team that knocked them out in the EHF EURO 2016 semi-final, finishing with a 31:25 victory.

“We have had two games like this now where you know it is going to be a full arena and the fans will always cheer for the opposite team, but we use this energy for our advantage and we also think it is fun when they are booing at us,” said Norway line player Petter Overby following the semi-final.

One blemish on Norway’s win on Friday night was an injury to key right back Magnus Rod. The latest report is that Rod is in better shape than first appeared and could be ready to take the court on Sunday.

Denmark have made it to the World Championship final a total of three times – twice with several of the players in the current line-up. The biggest stars, such as goalkeeper Niklas Landin, left back Mikkel Hansen and centre back Rasmus Lauge, were all on court when Denmark lost the 2011 final to France in extra time. They experienced the disappointment again in 2013, when Spain took a dominant 30:24 victory at home in Barcelona.

While Norway have never won a major international title, the only trophy missing from Denmark’s cabinet is that of the World Championship. They celebrated gold at the EHF EUROs in 2008 and 2012, before claiming their maiden Olympic gold medal in 2016. Last time they played a final at home however, at the EHF EURO 2014, Denmark were defeated by France and had to watch another team celebrate in front of their own crowd.

“I am only thinking about gold for now,” said Denmark left wing Magnus Landin regarding the fact that a medal is already secured. “Of course, it is a special feeling for me to now have a senior World Championship medal, but let’s see after Sunday [what it is]. Our only goal is this gold medal.”

At the 2019 World Championship, everything has fallen into place so far for the co-hosts. They arrive at the final with a perfect record of only victories, while Norway only lost to Denmark in preliminary Group C. It was a thrilling match, though Denmark were largely in control, holding a 17:14 advantage at the break before recording a 30:26 result in their favour.

Denmark boast the top scorer in the competition, Mikkel Hansen, who has been nothing short of brilliant throughout Germany/Denmark 2019. It is not only his 65 goals that have impressed – the left back has also been key with assists, largely playing in attack. Norway’s top scorer is left wing Magnus Jondal, who currently ranks third with 50 goals.

On the overall statistical ranking of assists, it is Norway back Sander Sagosen who enters the final day in first position, with an incredible total of 45 in their nine games. Hansen is sixth in this ranking, with 33.

It is no surprise that the two finalists count on exceptional goalkeepers. All four – Niklas Landin and Jannick Green for Denmark, and Torbjorn Bergerud and Espen Christensen – have been excellent and essentially interchangeable with no decrease in quality. Christensen is third on the statistical ranking, with a 39% save rate, while Landin is fourth with an average of 38%. However, none of the four had their best day in the semi-finals – but if they can find their top form in the final, an epic battle can be expected between the posts.

The 26th IHF Men’s World Championship between Denmark and Norway throws off at 17:30 local time in Herning on the evening of January 27.

Bronze-medal match:

Prior to the title-deciding game, Germany and France will take the court at 14:30 local time to battle for the bronze medal. It is known as the most difficult match, as the two sides have to recover from the disappointment of semi-final losses and realise that one will end their World Championship campaign empty handed.

Friday night was France’s first loss in a World Championship semi-final since 2007. They have played for bronze four times, and only lost the critical match once (2007). Since that edition in Germany, France went on to claim four world titles. 2013, when Spain celebrated at home, was the only time the record world champions did not emerge on top.

While 2007 marks a comparatively poor result for France, considering their achievements since then, it was a great occasion for Germany. That was the year the 2019 World Championship co-hosts last raised the trophy, and they had hoped to do the same after their home campaign this year. Now they will have to be content with fighting for what could be the second bronze medal for this team in three years, after they claimed third place at the 2016 Olympic Games. It would be Germany’s second World Championship bronze; the first came way back in 1958.

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