Norway are reaching for their best EHF EURO achievement in history. After a nail-biting finish in the previous match against FYR Macedonia, when they rallied from a five-goal deficit deep in the second half to a 31:31 draw, Norway moved to the top of the Group 1 and are now the closest to a semi-final berth out of four contenders in Krakow.
One of their most important players in the second-half comeback against FYR Macedonia was 29-year-old line player Joakim Andre Hykkerud, who is playing the first EHF EURO of his career.
“Against the Macedonians we did not lose a point, but won a point. The truth is that we came back from a five-goal deficit and were leading in the end, but in the last minute it was a draw and our opponents had ball possession for 30 seconds. One point is still more than none,” said Hykkerud.
Hykkerud’s importance in the team rapidly increased after their opening defeat to Iceland in the group phase, when veteran line player and team captain Bjarte Myrhol sustained a minor injury to his palm. The TSV Hannover-Burgdorf player therefore had to step up and has since supplied his team with much-needed goals from the line, where he keeps a near-perfect record of nine goals from 10 attempts.
“When Bjarte was injured I played a lot against Belarus and Croatia. He came back and I have another role, but I am taking my playing time as best as I can. My main task is to block the opponents' defence.”
Sleepwalker dreams of medal round
Hykkerud quickly came under the spotlight of Norwegian media after Myrhol was injured, and they soon revealed interesting information from behind the scenes.
The line player, who lost 20 kg in the past two years, is well-known in the team for two special traits – he has a sweet tooth and sleepwalks occasionally. His sleepwalking led to one incident already at the EURO. In Katowice his roommate Magnus Jondal had a tough night when Hykkerud stole his pillow and duvet in his sleep and refused to give it back.
When it comes to dreams, Hykkerud still believes everything is possible in the last main round match even though they are facing the defending champions.
“Of course, I am still dreaming about the medal round. We are so close. In handball anything can happen and it would not be a big deal if we beat France or if Croatia take some points from Poland.
“It is going to be a tough game. We have to go all in and try to win. We will also see whether Croatia can help us,” he concluded.