Handball: France topples Norway as Denmark celebrates bronze. IHF

France are the new world handball queens after beating defending champions Norway 31-28 in a thrilling final at the Jyske Bank Boxen in Herning in front of 12,000 spectators. Three hours earlier, Denmark's bronze medal (27-28 to Sweden) made the party complete.

France and Norway played out the expected final after proving they're the two best national teams of the moment. Les Bleus will be defending the Olympic gold medal they won in Tokyo two years ago, while the Scandinavians are the current world champions after beating the French in the final (22-29). 

Olivier Krumbholz's team showed a great level of play throughout the championship, winning every single match, including a 24-23 win over Norway, who started the final better and took a two-point lead after Nora Mork's third penalty (6-8). 

However, France have a very strong bench and everyone played their part in a great comeback that Orlane Kanor completed (11-10). Estelle Nze Minko also scored twice as Les Bleus opened up a four-goal lead (19-15) and led 20-17 at half-time. With Aardahl on the bench, the Scandinavians had slowed down defensively. 

France's Orlane Kanor shine at the final. IHF
France's Orlane Kanor shine at the final. IHF

In the second period, Norway tried to make a comeback, taking risks in defense and trying to run in attack to avoid a static game. Nora Mork was perfect from the seven-metre line (7/7) and the Swedes closed the gap to 26-25 at 48:30 after a goal by Camilla Herrem.

It looked as if the Norwegians were going to make it, but they hit three major roadblocks along the way: 18 turnovers, an outstanding performance from goalkeeper Hatadou Sako, who made five saves in the hottest moments of the final, and centre Lena Grandveau, who scored three goals and made a crucial steal.

In addition, Krumbholz managed their game perfectly and showed why he is one of the best coaches in women's handball. France came through when it mattered most, winning 31-28 to become the reigning Olympic and world champions.

Norway's Henny Reistad was named MVP of the tournament in an all-star team that also included France's Laura Glauser as best goalkeeper, Chloe Valentini (left wing) and Estelle Nze Minko (left back), Sweden's Linn Blohm (line player) and Nathalie Hagman (right wing), Denmark's Luise Burgaard (right back), Norway's Stine Oftedahl (centre back), Germany's Viola Leuchter (best young player) and Czech Republic's Marketa Jerabkova (top scorer).

Bronze for Denmark

It was Denmark's third consecutive medal at a major championship, following bronze at the last edition in Spain and silver at last year's European Championships. It's a return to the top two decades after winning three consecutive Olympic gold medals in Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004.

It wasn't an easy game for the hosts in front of an impressive crowd of nearly 12,000 at the Jyske Bank Boxen. Jesper Jensen's side started as well as they did in the semi-final against Norway, leading by four goals after seven minutes (1-5).

Denmark won second bronze in a row. DANSK HAANBOLD
Denmark won second bronze in a row. DANSK HAANBOLD

Sweden responded after a time-out and managed to close the gap to 8-9 (min. 14:11). However, two successive suspensions to the 'yellow' side and a great performance from left back Mie Hoejlund (MVP of the match) saw Denmark to take a three-goal lead at the half-time break (15-18).

The Swedes stepped up their defensive intensity in the second period and completed the comeback with a goal from goalkeeper Camina Bunsden, the main star alongside with Olivia Mellegaard (24-23, min. 49:42).

Camila Jorgensen and Mie Hojlund were the key players for Denmark in the most complicated moments, the latter scoring the decisive goal at 60' (26:28). The final score was 27-28 and the party was on in Herning.

10,000 square metres of fun in the fan zone

In addition to the handball action in the Jyske Bank Arena, Hall M at the MCH Messecenter Herning was transformed into a 10,000 square metre Fan Zone, where fans could enjoy themselves before and between matches, with lounge areas, cafΓ©s, music and entertainment, as well as a variety of activities such as table football, table tennis, football darts and, of course, handball, with the opportunity to test the shooting speed. 

Lars Lundov, CEO of Sport Event Denmark, commented to Insidethegames: "We have seen great examples of fan zones here in Herning. The one at the IHF Women's Handball World Championship is a good example of a fan zone that invites fans to embrace the sport, have a good time and come together."

The Fan Zone opened an hour before the first match and closed for the last time around 30 minutes before the final, with lots of exciting activities and entertainment on each opening day. Fans also had the opportunity to get autographs from selected national team players in the Jyske Bank Box after Denmark's matches. 

In the Fan Zone, there were several ways to satisfy your appetite, such as booking a table at the Family Fan Buffet, stopping by the Sports Bar or exploring the many food stands with burgers, Greek pita bread, pizza, Thai food, sandwiches, etc.