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Date: 7/13/2018
 

The 2018 IHF Women’s Junior (U20) World Championship final sees a rematch of a preliminary round encounter, with Hungary hoping to repeat the dominant win they took over Norway in Round 5 and raise what would be their first ever trophy in this event. For Norway, it would be the second, after 2010.

 

The bronze-medal match will be contested by Republic of Korea and Russia, in what is a rematch of the 2016 Youth World Championship semi-final played between these same squads.

 

Final: Norway vs Hungary – July 14, 20:00 local time

 

Norway have gone from strength to strength at Hungary 2018, finishing second in Group A following three wins and one defeat in a difficult match with the entire Hall Fonix against them as they took on hosts Hungary to end their preliminary round campaign. The Scandinavian team therefore did not enter the knock-out round as a clear favourite to reach the trophy match, but they well and truly earned their place in the final with the impressive performances in the decisive games.

 

In the eighth-final, Norway defeated Iceland by five, before playing the only quarter-final that extended into extra time – against the current European champions in this age group, France. The match was not only won in extra time but with only seconds remaining before the whistle. Norway were behind throughout most of the game, equalising in the last minute of regular time then again scoring the goal when it counted most.

 

Norway’s performance in the quarter-final improved every minute from the first to the last, as they fought back from behind to take the win. With that result, the Scandinavian side proved they can perform under pressure – and they have only continued to get stronger. Their victory over Russia in the semi-final was unexpectedly clear, as they defeated the 2016 Youth World Championship-winning squad by seven goals, 30:23.

 

Russia’s previously powerful game completely fell apart against Norway, so Hungary had best be prepared to face difficult defence and a team with far more confidence than they might have had when they took on the hosts in the preliminary round. However, if there is any team riding a more formidable wave than Norway, it is the tournament hosts.

 

Hungary reach the final with only victories in their account, having beaten all the same opponents as Norway in the preliminary round – Brazil, Portugal and Montenegro. They won the Round 5 clash with Norway with a clear result of 35:27 in their favour, after leading 20:13 at the half-time break. Hungary’s win in that match was never really in doubt, so it seems that nothing can stop them from taking the trophy if they play with the same strength they did in that game.

 

Hungary breezed through the finals stage with a 31:17 win over Slovenia in the eighth-final, a 31:26 victory against Romania in the quarter-final, then a 30:25 result against Republic of Korea in the semi-final.

 

If Hungary win the final, it will be the first time they have ever raised the Women’s Junior World Championship trophy. Their previous best result was second, in both 2001 and 2003. Norway won their one title in 2010.

 

Bronze-medal match: Russia vs Republic of Korea – July 14, 17:30 local time

 

Russia left the court wondering what had happened in their semi-final, as their previously strong form was nowhere to be seen against Norway. After reaching the penultimate stage with only wins in their record, Russia appeared to be one of the dominant sides and a strong favourite to reach the podium. They may still do that, but bronze is certainly not the medal they hoped for.

 

Russia took dominant wins in every preliminary round game, including, crucially, a 27:15 victory over Republic of Korea. In the knock-out stage they beat Brazil 32:20 in the eighth-final and the Netherlands 28:26 in the quarter-final, before their game collapsed completely against Norway in the semi-final and they suffered a 23:30 loss.

 

After ranking second behind Russia in Group B, Korea enjoyed a 28:23 win over Montenegro in their eighth-final then beat Denmark clearly, 24:16, in the quarter-final. In the semi-final, they played a good game but were ultimately overpowered by the hosts and the atmosphere in Hall Fonix.

 

The game will be a rematch of the semi-final at the 2016 Youth World Championship, where this Russia squad defeated Korea 27:23 on their way to the trophy. At that event, Korea beat Norway 32:30 to take the bronze medal.

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