A tired Norway is out; England on to the Semis

1 Jul

This was not the game I expected. I thought that this would be a hard fought match. However, the Norway we saw against Australia was not the Norway that showed up here. (And to be honest, that exhausting game may well have been the reason for Norway’s performance.) It’s a shame for many reasons. But the one reason I want to mention is that this result may give England a false sense of confidence. Yes, they won 3-0. However, their play continues to be sloppy and their defense is questionable. They just have been lucky that they have not had to pay for their iffy play.

Lucila Venegas was the referee for the match.

There was also a famous Father-Daughter outing at the match. I’m a sucker for these things.

Harper Beckham did not have to wait long for a goal as Scott put the ball into the net after a great run from Parris who served the ball into Bronze who found Scott in the perfect position. The kick itself wasn’t perfect but Jill Scott was in a great spot to get her first goal of the tournament.

Soon after both Graham Hansen and Herlovsen saw some play into the box but the English defense was able to clear any danger.

While I have plenty of criticism for the Lionesses’ defense, the partnership between Parris and White continues to be great to watch. This match saw some good play between the two but Parris might have been wiser in the 20th minute to pass to White who was unmarked but she tried to give it a go on her own.

While Bronze managed to take care of anything Graham Hansen sent in, there was some sketchy play between Houghton and Bardsley. A messy back pass was gotten away with but this should be a concern for them.

But Ellen White, in quick succession, hit the post and then scored in the 40th minute so defensive failings took a back seat. This time Parris decided to pass the ball to White who was able to capitalize.

After the half, Graham Hansen had a good opportunity and Houghton was able to get back to clear it but once again, the defensive line showed some serious flaws.

Reiten also had a chance but Bardsley came off her line to snuff that out.

However, I can’t complain about the English defense and not comment on Norway’s lousy defense. Thorisdottir was busy having words with Parris and the defense made the big mistake of not marking Bronze and in the 57th minute, she received the ball from substitute Mead and fired a rocket into the net.

Utland came in for Saevik in the 64th minute and she immediately made an impact by taking advantage of another incredibly bad back pass between Bright and Bardsley though Houghton is able to clear it and a few minutes later Bright again fouled up and allowed Utland to have a chance. Bright also nearly lost a chance after Graham Hansen was able to steer herself clear. Unfortunately, Graham Hansen was just off and could not take advantage of these opportunities.

But Norway also had their defensive woes. White continued to trouble Hjelmseth.

And Thorisdottir fouled Houghton and gave up a penalty. Parris took it but it was saved by Hjelmseth. Some commentators commented that Parris should not take penalties for a while but I’d rather mention that Hjelmseth is still one heck of a keeper. (I know they are not mutually exclusive but I’d rather give Norway some love.)

Rachel Daly came on in the 88th minute and though only on for a few minutes, got right in there to help her teammates, crossing some nice passes to Mead and to create space for Stanway to get a shot off.

I asked Teri about her thoughts on Norway’s performance and she agreed that the Australia match took its toll. She says:

The quarter-final didn’t go Norway’s way at all, which can partly be blamed on their punishing Round of 16 match v Australia. Or at least I’m placing partial blame there. I cannot imagine how fatigued they were both physically and mentally; adrenaline can only get you so far before the last tank hits empty.

Throughout this tournament I really enjoyed watching Isabell Herlovsen terrorizing defenses and Maria Thorisdottir calmly holding the defensive line with Maren Mjelde. Caroline Graham Hansen was quiet to start but grew into her role superbly. You wouldn’t know she suffered a knock during the group stage by how she attacked the knockout matches. I was a bit nervous and I’m not even playing!

It may not come as a surprise that the Norwegian players who made the biggest impact here play outside of Norway. This is a relatively standard theme in this tournament for teams rebuilding or implementing a new project. Graham Hansen was part of the Vfl Wolfsburg legacy but recently moved to Barcelona. Mjelde and Maria Thorisdottir (who didn’t yell “Thor!” whenever she was involved in a play?!) are teammates at Chelsea and will be joined by Guro Reiten this upcoming season. I have to think clubs were watching Ingrid Engen closely and she’ll be on the move beyond the Norwegian domestic league too.

In my Group A preview, I wrote about how “France could end up being a coming out party for Norway’s next Golden generation.” I believe this did happen. They made it to the quarter-finals which is an amazing achievement for any team. The cloud of media garbage about “the player who shall not be named” dogged them throughout the group stage but the teamed showed they are capable of and can achieve greatness all on their own. Norway have a strong youth core coming through and I would not be the least surprised if Norway can equal or best their performance here in 2023.

Well said, Teri.

Lucy Bronze was named Player of the Match

England will play the United States on Tuesday. It will be interesting since both teams have their defensive weaknesses (as well as getting away with some less than stellar play). Stay tuned!

Stade Oceane, Le Havre , France
Attendance 21,111
Referees: Lucila Venegas (MEX), Mayte Chavez, (MEX), Enedine Caudillo (MEX), Katalin Kulcsar (HUN)
Line ups:
ENG: Bardsley, Bronze, Houghton (Captain), Bright, Stokes, Scott, Kirby (Stanway, 74’), Walsh, Parris (Daly, 88’), White, Duggan (Mead, 53’)
NOR: Hjelmseth, Minde, Thorisdottir, Mjelde, Moe Wold (Hansen, 85’), Reiten (Eikeland, 74’), Engen, Boe Risa, Saevik (Utland, 62’), Graham Hansen, Herlovsen


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