No World Cup for Norwegian women

Norway’s soccer team booted out in Round of 16–again


Photo: Lise Åserud / NTB
Norway’s Ingrid Syrstad Engen takes some time alone following Norway’s loss to Japan 3-1 in the knockout round of the World Cup. Japan scored its first goal when the ball deflected off Engen’s leg.

Michael Kleiner
Business & Sports Editor
The Norwegian American

The circumstances seemed set up for the world’s 12th-ranked Norwegian women’s soccer team in the World Cup. Group A included 20th-ranked Switzerland, 26th-ranked and co-host New Zealand, and 46th-ranked Philippines. A berth in the knockout round seemed assured.

With the firepower trio of Ada Hegerberg, Caroline Graham Hansen and Guro Reiten, perhaps Norway could make a long run. Norway had reached the knockout round in seven of the eight World Cups.

Yet, advancement came down to the final Group A game against Philippines, July 30. Norway had yet to score, losing 1-0 to New Zealand, July 20, and drawing 0-0 with Switzerland, July 25, in which Hegerberg was injured right before kickoff, and Hansen didn’t start.

Norway routed Philippines 6-0, creating optimism for its meeting with 11th-ranked Japan, Aug. 5, in the first game of the knockout round.

Japan 3, Norway 1

Norway disappointed. Japan, which won Group C by winning all three games, played an excellent, aggressive game.

In the 15th’, Hinata Miyazawa cut inside from the left and sent a cross toward the penalty shot spot. Norway’s Ingrid Syrstad Engen reached out her leg, which hit the ball. Aurora Mikalsen lunged to her right, and the ball trickled in past her fingertips for an own goal.

At 20’, Norway finally got the ball upfield as Mikalsen’s goal kick reached Vilda Bøe Risa, who raced down the right side, crossed into the middle of the 18-yard box, where Reiten rose and headed the ball into the top-left corner.

The goal would be Norway’s only shot on goal in the half. They had only one other shot that went wide left at 26’—but it was 1-1.

In the 50th’, Norway got sloppy in the defensive 18-yard box. Risa’s errant pass wound up on the foot of Risa Shimizu, who sent a low shot into the bottom right corner.

Hegerberg took the field in the 74th’. “Ada was not ready for 90 minutes,” Norway coach Hege Riise told NTB.

Norway reintroduced themselves to the offensive 18-yard box.

At 78’, Hansen dribbled into the box, slid the ball to a wide-open Karina Sævik, but her shot went wide left. A minute later, Hansen worked the ball inside for Frida Maanum, but Maanum’s right-footed shot was directly at goalie Ayaka Yamashita.

In the 81st, Japan iced it. Aoba Fujino’s throughball connected with Miyazawa in front of the goal, Thea Bjelde fell, Mikalsen came up. Miyazawa touched the ball into the goal.

Japan outshot Norway 16-8, (4-3 SOT) and had a 61%-39% advantage in possession time.

In three of the last four World Cups, Norway has been knocked out in the Round of 16. Not including penalty kick victories, Norway is winless in its last six knockout-round games (1D, 5L). They did become the third country to score its 100th goal, following the United States (142) and Germany (129).

“We are disappointed,” said Riise, who starred for 1991, 1995, and 1999 Norway World Cup teams as a player. “There was a lot of faith in the team that we would achieve something today. We knew that Japan would have the ball a lot, but we had to be patient and wait for them. That was the game plan, and everyone agreed that it was going to be like that. At the end, when they were leading 2-1, we moved up as much as we could from the defense and we were close to succeeding with it.”

There is much to question. We’ll never know what would have happened if Hegerberg weren’t injured. Now, it was Maanum’s turn to complain about playing time.

“Like everyone else, I’m disappointed when I don’t play, but I respect that Hege chose the way she did,” Maanum said a day later. “She said she wanted to play a different formation and that other players would be better suited. I would have liked to have started, because I felt healthy and fine.”

When you have high-caliber scorers, it seems counterproductive not to push the action. Four years from now, Reiten will be 33. Hegerberg and Hansen will be 32. Not old, but… this was an opportunity.

“Going forward, we must develop our game even more so that we can punish even more teams with our type of game,” said Riise. “Further developing the offensive game will be important. We see where we can get margins, and we are keen to appear as a team no one wants to face. We are not there at the moment.”

July 30: Norway 6, Philippines 0

Hansen was back in the starting lineup against Philippines and Sophie Román Haug again replaced Hegerberg. Haug proceeded to play like Hegerberg, netting a hat trick, as Norway won 6-0. New Zealand and Switzerland played to a 0-0 draw so the Swiss (1-2-0-5 pts) and Norwegians (1-1-1-4 pts) were through.

Two-time defending champion and top-ranked United States barely advanced to the Round of 16; second-ranked Germany, seventh-ranked Canada, and eighth-ranked Brazil didn’t advance, while 25th-ranked Colombia, 43rd-ranked Jamaica, 54th-ranked South Africa and 72nd-ranked Morocco did. Scandinavia had three reps with third-ranked Sweden and 13th-ranked Denmark.

Norway asserted themselves early against the team where 18 of the 23 players were American-born and two were Norwegian-born.

Haug had a hat trick (6’, 17’, 90’+5)—and nearly had a fourth. Hansen scored from distance (31’) followed by an own goal (48’) and Reiten penalty kick (53’).

Norway outshot Philippines 31-4, 13-1 on target; had possession 72%-28%, and ended a four-game winless streak in the World Cup.

July 25: Switzerland 0, Norway 0

What happened before and after the game grabbed the headlines. Moments before kickoff, Hegerberg ran her last sprint and felt a pain in the groin. Yet, she joined her teammates in the circle seeming ready to go. A team staffer tapped Hegerberg and then Hegerberg walked back to the locker room as her bewildered teammates looked on. Given her history with the national team, it was strangely symbolic. But, it was the team staffer who sent her to the locker room.

Norway had one shot on target at halftime and Switzerland didn’t get its first and only until the 71st minute. Hansen entered in the 57th minute and couldn’t capitalize on a couple of opportunities

Then, she met the press.

“I think everyone who is here wants to play, so it is of course a tough message to get,” Hansen told Viaplay. “I feel that I have been stepped on for a whole year. I disagreed, was disappointed and hurt. I don’t agree with the way it was done or the way I’ve been treated, but that is not important now. The important thing is to support the team and make sure we win the next game.”

By the next morning, she had apologized and coach Riise and the players accepted it.

“I’m only human and there are a lot of emotions,” said Hansen. “After the game yesterday, it got the better of me. I want to apologize to my teammates, the coaches, and everyone else for taking the focus away from what actually matters. It is to play in the WC.

“I am fit and knew I could contribute strongly against Switzerland. I respect that it is the coach who decides, and she has the right to do what she thinks is best for the team. It has been a year since I was removed from the captain’s team, which was one of the first things Hege did. It was bad feelings talking, not the rational me, and I’m sorry for that. I will do everything to help Norway further.”

July 20: New Zealand 1, Norway 0

Norway had the distinction of playing the first game of the World Cup against New Zealand, cohosting with Australia. Norway had won seven straight openers. In 15 games, a New Zealand men’s or women’s team had never won a World Cup game.

Neither team had a shot on target in the first half. Rebekah Stott shut down Hegerberg.

At 48’, Hannah Wilkinson sidefooted the ball from 6 yards into the goal for a 1-0 NZ lead, the first goal ever scored by NZ in a World Cup. Each team finished with two shots on target.

This article originally appeared in the September 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Michael Kleiner

Michael Kleiner, business and sports editor, has more than three decades of experience as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. He has operated his own PR and web design business for small businesses, authors and community organizations in Philadelphia since 1999. Not of Norwegian descent, he lived in Norway for a year with his family at age 11 and has returned as an adult. He is the author of a memoir, Beyond the Cold: An American’s Warm Portrait of Norway, and a member of NorCham Philadelphia. Visit;