A last-minute goal saw The Netherlands beat Russia in the semi-final of the IHF Women's World Championship in Japan ©IHF

The Netherlands beat Olympic champions Russia at the International Handball Federation (IHF) Women's World Championship in Japan, as a last-minute goal delivered a 33-32 win in the semi-final at the Park Dome Kumamoto.

Their opponents in Sunday's (December 15) final will be Spain, who produced their own surprise by beating Norway, champions in 2015 and silver medallists last time round,  28-22 in the second semi-final. 

While The Netherlands accompanied Russia in the first seedings group - along with Romania and defending champions France - the Olympic champions had arrived in the last four on a huge roll and with a perfect record, while their opponents had already lost two games in the competition.

The scoreline at half-time was 16-16, but after the break the Dutch team, for whom Estavana Polman was top scorer with nine goals, found a way to win.

For Russia, Anna Vyakhireva - Most Valuable Player in the Rio 2016 final - produced another huge performance, scoring 11 of their goals, earning the player-of-the-match award.

The Netherlands won their first medal in this competition, a silver, in 2015, and took bronze two years ago.

The will doubtless fancy their chances of gold after this performance, but will not be underestimating Spain, who despite only being in the fourth seedings group, have lost just once so far - to Russia.

Spain have only reached the podium once before in the history of the event, taking bronze in 2011.

As in the first semi-final, there was parity at half-time - 13-13.

But then the Spanish, for whom Alexandrina Cabral Barbosa scored seven goals, moved away from their opponents who took silver in 2017 behind France - who failed to reach the second group stage in Japan.

Malin Larsen Aune top-scored for Norway with five goals.

In the earlier game for seventh place, Sweden beat Gernany 35-24 to end German chances of reaching the Tokyo 2020 qualifying tournaments, opening the door instead to Hungary.

Sweden had already secured a place in the pre-Tokyo 2020 qualification.

Fifth place went to Montenegro, who beat Serbia 28-26.

The third-place match between Russia and Norway is due to precede Sunday's final at the Park Dome.