WWC Round of 16: Norway v England

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England progressed to a quarter final match-up against hosts Canada after recovering from a poor first half to defeat Norway in a come-from-behind victory.

What Happened

Despite Norway taking the lead in the second half, two goals in response from the English side helped them qualify for the quarter finals of the competition, sending the 1995 champions plummeting out of the tournament.

Ottawa was the host city that saw England come from a goal behind to secure their progress but in the early stages of the game it looked like Norway were going to send them home to pack their bags.

Isabell Herlovsen had the first real chance of the match when she had a breakaway on the goals, leaving her facing down against only Karen Hardsley between the sticks until the English keeper warded off the attack, rushing out to collect the ball and stop Norway’s hopes of an early lead.

Ada Hegerberg and Kristine Minde both joined the attack on Hardsley’s goals with Hegerberg on the receiving end of a backwards pass that gave her a clean cut at the goals only for the shot to smash straight into Bardsley and deny them, once again, the lead.

The second half held more luck for the Norwegians as Solveig Gulbrandsen broke away during a corner to put the ball into the back of the net, smashing in a header off the inch-perfect cross.

Seven minutes went by with Norway in the lead before the English captain Steph Houghton brought them level once more, answering with a similar headed goal off a corner that clipped the frame of the goal and dropped into the back of the net.

The equalizer spurred England on with vital substitutes Jodie Taylor and Jill Scott launching their own counter-attacks that resulted in a series of cool passes that found Lucy Bronze at the end of her run. The resulting 25 meter shot was unstoppable, smashing past Norwegian keeper Ingrid Hjelmseth to claim the victory for the Lady Lionesses.

Karen Carney almost took a third for England in the late moments of the game but Hjelmseth wasn’t to be beaten again and Bronze’s winner put England through to the quarter finals of the Women’s World Cup.

Stand Out Performances

Without Karen Hardsley there would be no victory for the Lady Lionesses and she deservedly collected the Player of the Match for the game. Although Hardsley hasn’t kept a clean sheet in the competition to date, she has only let in four goals in four games and her performance continued in the Round of 16. England conceded fourteen attempts on goal with five on target and Hardsley was able to ward away all but one of the shots that could have put Norway in an unreachable position.

Lucy Bronze’s strong winning goal also has to be accounted for with her calm shot sinking Norway for good and proving that England deserves to be dominating on the national stage. Captain Steph Houghton once again came to England’s rescue while they were trailing however, and her commanding presence led England to the victory they deserved with their second half performance.

Although she wasn’t able to find the back of the net, Norwegian midfielder Isabell Herlovsen once again terrorized the defensive line, keeping Hardsley on her toes and making sure that the England defenders never had a moment’s rest.

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Ada Hegerberg also had another strong performance, dominating the frontline and keeping Norway looming the whole game – these Norwegian veterans will be disappointed that they will not have another chance to prove themselves on the global stage.

Talking Points

England may have been the favourites to begin with but Norway’s opening goal gave the former champions a glimmer of hope that they could take away the win and move on to face the hosts in a quarter-final clash. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and England proved that they are a force to be reckoned with as they booked their appearance in the last eight teams of the competition. Is their strong, cohesive side enough to take them all the way to the end of the series now or will they come up against a challenger that they can’t overcome?

With their next match being against hosts Canada, England now believe that they have an easier draw than some of the other sides, having avoided heavyweights Germany and the USA. They must now keep their eyes focused on the victory or risk slipping up to Canada on home soil. Can they make it to the final four teams in the Women’s World Cup, or will Canada prove that they are global contenders but putting England on the first plane home?

What It Means

England have reached the quarter finals stage for the third consecutive World Cup. They’ll play hosts Canada after John Herdman’s side beat Switzerland 1-0.

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Norway are without a win against England in their last six.

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Needs Work

Intriguingly England made three changes at the back – Bronze, Rafferty and Bassett all coming in to counter the threat Norway offered from the long-ball yet for the opening third of the encounter the English rearguard were a little overawed. It was reminiscent of when Mark Sampson sent his side to scrap it out against France: they were reacting against Norway rather than asserting themselves on the game.

The second half was much better – England forced themselves upon the game and pressed Norway high up the pitch until they began to tire. It seems Sampson’s charges are, at best, only able to produce one half of their best football at the moment and you have to wonder whether part of this is down to the manager’s constant tinkering. He ought to reward the players who changed the game – namely Jill Scott and Jodie Taylor – perhaps by steadying the line-up next time out against Canada.

What Next

England will play Canada on the 27th of June.

Goal of the Day

Lucy Bronze’s strike was one worthy of winning any game. She received the ball from Jill Scott and hammered the ball into the near top corner.

Miss of the Day

It would appear a tad harsh to criticize Isabell Herlovsen’s indecision when set through on goal early on in the game but had she kept a little more composure Bardsley was beaten.

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