Norway squad for Women’s Euro 2022: player profiles - Hegerberg, Graham Hansen...
With a squad with star names such as Ada Hegerberg and Caroline Graham Hansen, Norway are out to bounce back from their disastrous Euro 2017.
As part of the Guardian’s Women’s Euro 2022 Experts’ Network, a collaboration between media outlets from 16 countries, AS is offering in-depth profiles of the players in all 16 squads at the tournament, which runs from 6 to 31 July. This lowdown on the Norway squad is written by TV2′s Christina Paulos Syversen and Helge Johan Pettersen Kalleklev.
Date of birth: 22 May 2002
Profile: One of the youngest players in this Norway squad this summer, she is inexperienced but the national coach, Martin Sjögren, believes she has a bright future ahead of her. She has impressed in the Norwegian top flight this season despite being only 19 years old at the start of the campaign and is being guided at club level by the Norway legend Ingrid Hjelmseth, who is the goalkeeping coach at Stabæk.
Date of birth: 22 August 1991
Profile: Guro Pettersen may have only one cap for Norway at the time of writing but she contributes a lot of experience to the squad. The 30-year-old is not afraid to call out online abuse and in January 2020 she posted a video on Twitter sharing some of the derogatory comments she received after posting a video of a goal she had scored in training on TikTok. “To everyone who doesn’t “like” women’s football, please keep it to yourself,” she wrote. Won Goal of the season in the Swedish top flight in 2021 while playing for Piteå after scoring from the halfway line.
Date of birth: 21 March 1996
Profile: Mikalsen’s strong voice is always heard clearly over the pitch and stands when she plays for her club Brann or the national team. You simply cannot avoid hearing her directing her teammates. The 26-year-old has had spells at Manchester United and Tottenham in the Women’s Super League but returned to Norwegian football and Sandviken (now SK Brann) last year. Mikalsen was an outfield player until her mid-teens but always found the goalkeeping role fascinating. “The decisive situations, the consequences of one person’s mistakes,” she said last year. “It might frighten the life out of others but it appeals to me, it brings the best out of me.”
Date of birth: 4 August 1997
Profile: At club level Hansen normally plays as one of three central defenders but has been deployed more at right-back for Norway. The 24-year-old comes from a football family: Her father, Hugo, played 14 times for Norway in the 80s, and her older sister, Hege, also has 13 caps to her name and was part of the World Cup squad in 2015 while her brother Cato is capped at U21-level. Her dog, the cockapoo Vilja, has gone viral and currently has more than 130,000 followers on Instagram. Hansen has joked that being a dog owner and a captain of Brann is similar in many ways with the main difference being that Vilja is more obedient than her teammates.
Date of birth: 6 November 1989
Profile: Incredibly important to the team, Mjelde has been Norway captain since 2015 and the coach, Martin Sjögren describes her as “a real leader”. Joined Arna-Bjørnar as a 15-year-old and played in Germany and Sweden before joining Chelsea in 2016. There she has won four league titles although she missed almost a whole year after a serious knee injury in March 2021. She said once that “I have female role models I look up to, but especially my mum” and added: “She has the biggest heart, and I want to be like her when I get older.” Has been studying for a business degree and started taking her coaching badges.
Date of birth: 3 March 1994
Profile: After several knee injuries, playing with pain and other issues while playing college football in the US, Bergsvand was close to giving up and retiring after being on the sidelines for almost two years. But the decisive defender did not give up and finally got her breakthrough at the age of 27 for Brann (then Sandviken), winning the league last season. Bergsvand was voted “Role model of the year” in Norwegian football with the jury saying: “She is an inspiration for all young players facing adversity, doubting themselves and in need of proof that what seems impossible, actually is possible.”
Synne Skinnes Hansen
Date of birth: 12 August 1995
Profile: A quick and unpredictable full-back and winger who made her top-flight debut in Norway at the age 17 for Røa. Off the pitch there is one word that describes Synne Skinnes Hansen the best: scatterbrain. “She is capable of leaving her boots or shinpads every other time,” says Caroline Graham Hansen about a teammate who once managed to send her passport with her checked-in luggage when travelling to England.
Date of birth: 5 June 1993
Club: Manchester United
Profile: Thorisdottir was a multi talented youngster who played at youth level for Norway in football and handball until her late teens (as did Maren Mjelde). In 2013 she decided to opt for handball but knee injuries meant she was held back. She changed direction, went for football and made it into the 2015 World Cup squad. Her father, who is Icelandic, has been in charge of the Norway women’s handball team and she is a tremendous juggler. Joined Manchester United in 2021 after four years at Chelsea.
Date of birth: 27 August 2001
Club: Manchester City
Profile: Labelled a wonderkid after graduating with top marks in no fewer than 19 subjects at high school. Education has always been important for Blakstad and in 2020 she turned down an offer from Chelsea and moved to Trondheim to play for Rosenborg and begin her bachelor’s degree in industrial economics at NTNU. Blakstad is regarded as one of the biggest ever talents in Norwegian football and she joined Manchester City for a reported record fee involving a Norwegian player in January 2022. “I’ve watched quite a bit of Ronaldo [when it comes to shooting], he has a particular technique,” she says.
Date of birth: 21 June 1992
Profile: At the beginning of her career Sønstevold combined playing football at a top level in Norway while finishing a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She spent 10 years in the Norwegian top flight with Kolbotn and LSK Kvinner before moving abroad at the age of 28 in 2020. Her French adventure was marred by injuries and lack of playing time so she moved to Inter a year later and she has thrived in Italy, even scoring a goal of the month contender from 30 metres out in November 2021. She is enjoying life in Milan and recently extended her contract to 2024. According to one newspaper report she always has to blow her nose after a shower to feel “completely clean”.
Date of birth: 16 July 1999
Profile: An extremely determined player, she had an Excel spreadsheet at the age of 14 to record her progress. Nothing has been left to chance in her career and it has paid off. She made her international tournament debut on her 18th birthday at the 2017 Euro tournament and moved to Linköping in Sweden, where she impressed for two seasons before joining Arsenal in July 2021. A few months after joining the Gunners, the coach, Jonas Eidevall, admitted: “I knew she was good but she was even better than I had expected.” Apart from football, the midfielder loves to swim and play Fifa.
Vilde Bøe Risa
Date of birth: 13 July 1995
Club: Manchester United
Having lost her father to a heart attack in 2013, Bøe Risa set herself the goal to become a professional footballer. She has succeeded and thinks of her father every time she steps onto the pitch. The transfer to her childhood favorites Manchester United from Sandviken last summer was a dream come true for the 26 central midfielder who – after a couple of years in Swedish football is also fluent in Swedish language and loves to speak it whenever possible. A serious knee injury kept Bøe Risa out of the last Euros but she fought her way back to be a key player for Norway at the World Cup in France two years later.
Date of birth: 29 April 1998
Profile: The 24-year-old has truly taken huge steps forward in her development since joining Barcelona from Wolfsburg last summer, despite admitting that the first few months at the Spanish club were tough. Predominantly a midfielder, she has been used as a centre-back for both club and national team in recent times. Engen is described as the “social media queen” of the Norwegian national team. “She dresses nicely and takes pictures with lovely flowers – we don’t!” says teammate Vilde Bøe Risa on why Engen is the leader of the pack on Instagram.
Date of birth: 28 June 2001
Profile: Terland was a huge talent and got her breakthrough at the age of 15 for her home club Klepp. Unfortunately for Terland it was a bit too much too soon. After years of playing too many matches for too many teams she was told in 2019 that she needed to rest and focus more on recovery. She returned – seemingly stronger than ever – and after some impressive performances for Klepp, she moved to Sandviken in 2021. She won the league with her new club that season and has become one of the most important players in the team.
Date of birth: 26 July 1994
Profile: After impressing with Norwegian side LSK Kvinner, Guro Reiten joined Chelsea after the 2019 World Cup. The Chelsea manager, Emma Hayes, has said that Reiten’s “football intelligence is at the highest level” and she has been a key player for Chelsea in the three seasons she has been there – all ending with a title win. The first was the strangest, though, as Chelsea were awarded it after the season was curtailed because of the pandemic. My Chelsea teammates and I were asked to join a Zoom call so I logged in from Norway during a camping trip. Emma Hayes came on and, all of a sudden, popped open a bottle of champagne: “We’ve won the league!” It felt so weird to find out we had won it on points per game.” Back to her best after some injury problems.
Date of birth: 5 June 2000
Bjelde was a last-minute call-up for the Euro squad as a replacement for the injured Lisa Naalsund. The 22-year-old does bring something new and different to the Norway midfield: despite being quite small, her presence on the field is big. A quick and technical midfielder with relentless energy and excellent ball-winning abilities, she likes to watch Serie A football when she is not playing herself.
Date of birth: 26 August 1995
Eikeland made her top level debut at age 15 for Arna-Bjørnar and played more than 200 games over seven years for the club before moving to Reading after the 2019 World Cup. A utility player who has been used in a lot of different positions both for her club and national team this season, she has mentioned Marta, Lionel Messi and Maren Mjelde as people she looks up to. “Messi is of course a player everyone looks up to but I think Maren Mjelde is a very good role model for us youngsters at Arna-Bjørnar (their former club), coming through the ranks at club level, reaching the international team and then playing abroad.” Now they are at the Euros together. Voted Reading’s player of the season and players’ player of the season in 2021-22.
Caroline Graham Hansen
Date of birth: 18 February 1995
PA spectacular player who has been a dominant member of one of the best club sides in the world, Barcelona, for the past few years. Finished fourth in the Guardian’s top 100 female footballers in 2021 and will be a key player for Norway at the Euros. Described by colleagues as “a thinker”, she wrote down her deepest thoughts in the Notes app on her phone while struggling with knee injuries at Wolfsburg and used them as motivation on her way back. The 27-year-old prefers to stay out of the limelight off the pitch but is a clear leader on it.
Date of birth: 24 March 1996
Profile: Sævik recently returned home to Avaldsnes in Norwegian football after some challenging years at Paris Saint-Germain and Wolfsburg, partly for sporting reasons but partly because of the pandemic too. She is now coached by the former Liverpool full-back John Arne Riise. The 26-year-old forward plays with a lot of energy and is an excellent finisher – just have a look at the goal she scored as a Kolbotn player back in 2019 that went viral before the World Cup. Why on earth did no one nominate it for the Puskas award?
Celin Bizet Ildhusøy
Date of birth: 24 October 2001
Club: Paris St-Germain
Profile: Nicknamed “the Cuba foot” – being half-Norwegian, half-Cuban – Bizet Ildhusøy impressed with her technical skills at a young age in Toppserien and was clear what she wanted: to become one of the best footballers in the world. Has struggled for playing time at PSG but has remained sharp for the national team with a run of four goals in her first five appearances. “She surprises me,” says the Norway coach Martin Sjögren of the 20-year-old. “She has showed an extreme mental strength by performing so well for us despite playing so little for her club.”
Date of birth: 10 July 1995
Profile: One of the best players in the world, Hegerberg is back with the Norwegian national team after a five-year absence. The super star had become frustrated at what she perceived as a lack of support for the women’s team and for the development of girls’ football in Norway. Announcing her return to international football in March 2022 she said: “I love football, and I want to play football. I took a decision in 2017 that I stood by. But I had lot of time to reflect over the past two years, on many aspects.” The Lyon forward has recovered from two serious injuries to take her club to the Champions League final this season. “She is an example to follow on how to score goals,” teammate Celin Bizet Ildhusøy said after Hegerberg scored a hat-trick on her comeback for Norway.
Anna Langås Jøsendal
Date of birth: 29 April 2001
Profile: The biggest surprise in Norway’s squad but Jøsendal deserves being included after a superb season with Rosenborg. Has had a few difficult years of late with a persistent groin injury becoming so troublesome at one stage that she thought she may have to quit football. That injury, however, is now fully behind her and she says the difficulties have even made her stronger. The national coach, Martin Sjögren, has described her as “a player for the future” with her speed, skill and strong left foot. The 21-year-old can be used as a left winger and left-back and is the first ever female international from Odda, a small town of about 4,800 inhabitants and famous for its smelters, located in the beautiful Hardanger district on Norway’s west coast.
Sophie Román Haug
Date of birth: 4 June 1999
Profile: The announcement of the Euro squad in early June was her first ever call-up – and it did come as a surprise – but she has done well since joining Roma (fittingly, considering her middle name) in January. The striker adapted quickly to Italian football after six years at LSK Kvinner in Norway and scored four goals and made two assists in her seven appearances for the Italian club this season. The 23-year-old is a tall and strong striker and uses her size and strength to hold up the ball. The national team coach, Martin Sjögren, says she is the best header in Norwegian football behind Ada Hegerberg.