Surprising Hungarians aim at another upset against Norway

sago nagy

24 January 2017

After upsetting Denmark (27:25) in the eighth-finals, Hungary will again be the underdog against Norway, who have only been beaten by France since the beginning of the tournament. Very impressive against FYR Macedonia (34:24), Sander Sagosen and his teammates aspire to reach another semi-final, after finishing 4th of the 2016 EURO in Poland.

Quarter-final: Norway vs Hungary, Tuesday, 17:00 hrs in Albertville


Norway and Hungary already played each other five times in World Championships, but never in a knock-out match. Norway won the first head-to-head in 1958 (23:21), and then lost the four other ones in 1967 (15:11), 1999 (31:24), 2007 (25:22) and 2011 (26:23). More recently, these two teams drew (26:26) during the first round of the 2014 EURO in Denmark and also played two friendly matches in January 2015, before last World Championship in Qatar. Norway won twice (28:26 and 31:27) and are unbeaten for four games against Hungary. More generally, recent results of both teams suggest that Norway (4th of the 2016 EURO) are the favourites against Hungary (12th of the 2016 EURO).

The Hungarians are willing to accept the role as underdogs, which turned in their favour against Denmark, also knowing that Sunday’s feat kind of changed the equation. “Up until now, we were Hungary who finished fourth after the preliminary round, but now we are the team who won against the Olympic champions,” explained centre back Gabor Czaszar. “That’s a big difference. I guess the other teams will prepare a bit differently now.”

On the Norwegian side, caution is indeed required. “It is going to be a hard match,” announced left back Espen Lie Hansen, “and since they beat Denmark, it really proves they really can play handball at the highest level.” Winger Magnus Jondal added: “Hungary are a very strong team which has really everything. A very good defence and excellent back court players.” Head coach Christian Berge, who has been in the position since 2014, also is wary of this Hungarian team: “a physically strong team with Mate Lekai in the middle, who is a good technical player,” but emphasizes the need, for his team, to maintain momentum: “It will be the same as before. We have scored many easy goals on fast breaks and we must continue that if we want to have any chance.”

The players to watch:

Sagosen:Nagy (ENG)

Norway – Sander Sagosen: In the rosters of the eight teams still in race for the title, the Norwegian centre back is leading the  “top scorer points” ranking, with 62 points in 6 games (31 goals and 31 assists). Despite his key role in the Norwegian attacking play, Sander Sagosen has been able to rest a bit, taking advantage of the very good start from his team in the tournament (he played an average 36 mins per game thus far). This additional energy will certainly not come amiss in attempting to beat Hungary.

Hungary – Laszlo Nagy: The right back, who will turn 36 on 3 March, is not the dominant player he was when playing for Barcelona (2000-2012), with which he won two Champions League titles in 2005 and 2011. But Nagy still has a phenomenal influence on his national team, as the Danes found out in eighth-final. Injured in the first match against Germany, the Hungarian giant (2,08 m) didn’t play the four other group ties and was reintegrated in the squad to face Denmark. He mostly played in the defence during the eighth-final, but still managed to score a goal and make three assists. However, he particularly shone at disturbing the danish attacking play. Beyond the numbers (1 steal and 1 blocked shot), Nagy’s return transformed his team, from nervous during the first round to facing up well to the daunting task of beating the Olympic champions. He will have to do the same against Norway.

France 2017 ambassador and 1995 world champion Philippe Gardent gives his thoughts on the tie…

“Hungary are a small surprise because they’re not in the habit of creating upsets. But I don’t know if it’s really a big upset, because seeing Hungary so low for so long was not normal, as they have many good players. With the quality of their roster, it’s pretty logical that they are in the quarter-finals. But I don’t know if they will be able to play two very good matches in a row. If Mikler repeats his excellent performance, it will surely help them against the Norwegian team. Norway are were they belong, I think, when you look at what they are doing for the past years. They really are maturing as a team, whereas before they were a surprise. Now, they’re a team which is finding its feet at a high level and confirming its standing. Their game is very pleasant to watch, I thought they were very good against France.”

Photo: Philippe Montigny / Francehandball2017