Norway to Euro 2017
Two goals by Ada Hegerberg secure the Norwegian women’s national soccer team a spot in the 2017 European Championship
Jo Christian Weldingh
The Norwegian women’s national soccer team qualified for next year’s European Championship thanks to a 2-0 victory over Wales on June 7. Norway struggled, but two goals by star striker Ada Hegerberg secured the victory for the Norwegians.
There has never been any real doubt as to whether or not Norway would qualify for the championship. Before the match against Wales, the Norwegian ladies had won four out of their five matches and were front-runners to win their group, along with Austria.
The victory against Wales did not come as easy as some might have expected, as Norway did not perform up to their usual standards. They did the job, however, much thanks to one of the world’s best soccer players at the moment, Hegerberg. The 20 year old has the rare ability to score match-winning goals. She has scored more goals per game than any other player—male or female—this season, and when Norway needed something extra to defeat Wales for the second time in this qualifying group, Hegerberg knew what to do.
Wales was the better side in the first half and almost scored when Gemma Evans’s free kick went just over the crossbar 30 minutes into the game. Norway’s first goal-scoring opportunity came after 64 minutes of play when Kristine Minde’s finish went just outside the post. Seconds later, Wales’ Kayleigh Green almost scored, but her finish hit the crossbar.
Finally, after 69 minutes of play, Norway hit the net. Substitute Emilie Haavind crossed from the left and found Ada Hegerberg at the back post. 1-0. 12 minutes later, Hegerberg found the net once more. From 20 yards she managed to curl the ball past keeper Claire Skinner into the lower right corner. 2-0.
The two goals from Hegerberg were enough. Norway is now qualified for the European Championship in the Netherlands from July 16 to August 6 next summer.
These were Hegerberg’s 67th and 68th goals of the season, her 13th and 14th for the Norwegian national team. The young striker has scored 54 goals in 34 matches for her French club, Lyon: 33 in the French league, eight in the French cup, and 13 in Champions League. In comparison, Lionel Messi, widely considered the world’s best male player, has scored 41 as of June 13.
Norway played a draw against Austria on June 2, but after the June 7 victory, their chances of winning the group are good. No matter what happens, they have secured a place in the European Championship since they cannot finish worse than second.
The two remaining matches against Kazakhstan and Israel will be played later this year.
Even though Norway has won all but one of their qualifying matches, they have not been exceptional. That has to worry coach Roger Finjord. There are always great expectations for the team, and after their disappointing exit in the round of 16 in the World Championship last year, they have not been playing like potential champions. Luckily, Caroline Graham Hansen, will probably be joining the squad for the European Championship. With respect to Ada Hegerberg’s goal scoring abilities, Graham Hansen is the team’s best player by far. She has been put on the sidelines this year because of an injured knee. With one of the world’s best players on hand, there is still hope. To have Caroline Graham Hansen in good form will surely lift the team to a new level of performance.
Norway used to be a force to be reckoned with in women’s football. They won the European Championship in 1993, the World Championship in 1995, and became Olympic Champions in Sydney in 2000. After the millennium they have struggled to win championships, but they did place second in 2013’s European Championship in Sweden, after losing to Germany in the final.
Jo Christian Weldingh grew up in Lillehammer, Norway, but is currently living in Oslo. He has a BA in Archaeology from The University of Oslo and a BA in Business Administration from BI Norwegian Business School.
This article originally appeared in the July 1, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.