Norway on brink of World Cup exit as top teams pull away

Photo: Shane Wenzlick /

A scoreless World Cup draw with Switzerland leaves Norway on the cusp of another elimination as the former superpower struggles to keep up with the rapid pace of development in the women’s game, despite having some of the best players in the world.

With the attacking talents of Ada Hegerberg, Caroline Graham Hansen and Guro Reiten all fit and available, the 2023 Women’s World Cup represented a huge chance for redemption for a team that crashed out of last year’s Euros at the group stage.

That notion immediately came unstuck as they lost 1-0 to co-hosts New Zealand in their opening game, with Graham Hansen benched for the scoreless draw with the Swiss that leaves them dependent on others for a spot in the knockout stage.

It’s a far cry from the 1990s and early 2000s when Norway were winning a World Cup, a European Championship and Olympic medals, and only a decade ago they narrowly lost to Germany in the final of the Euros in Stockholm.

Since then, the women’s game has enjoyed a tremendous period of growth, and of the Scandinavian nations that were once among the most feared in the world, only Sweden have really managed to keep pace with the big guns like the United States and Germany.

Hegerberg succumbing to a groin injury minutes before the Swiss game was a slice of appalling luck, but the decision by coach Hege Riise to play Guro Reiten – one of the best wingers in the world – in a central role was a major tactical error.

Without a left-footed player on the left flank, Norway struggled to get crosses into the box from that side for Hegerberg’s replacement Sophie Roman Haug, making life easier for a Swiss defence that had already claimed a victory in their opening game with the Philippines.

The Norwegians can still make it to the knockout stage, but issues around tactics and team selection would suggest that Norway have a lot to do if they are to avoid being swallowed up by the chasing pack of emerging nations.

Bottom of the group with one point, Norway play the third-placed Philippines in their final Group A game on July 30, with group leaders Switzerland (four points) taking on the Football Ferns (three points) at the same time in what promises to be a pivotal day for the Norwegian women’s game.

Source: RNZ