Norway team guide Women’s Euro 2022: stars, players, coach, tactics, expectations...
After a disastrous campaign at Euro 2017, two-time continental champions Norway are out to build on their quarter-final finish at the last World Cup.
“I might have been called a football romantic by people on the outside,” the national team coach, Martin Sjögren says, “and I must admit that I am attracted to the attacking part of the game. My philosophy is, if you have to categorise it, an attacking one.”
That is in contrast to Norwegian teams of the past – men’s and women’s – and Sjögren’s style of football is very demanding, but also very exciting. In qualifying Norway played only played six out of their eight games (the last two were cancelled because of the pandemic) but still topped their group, four points before Northern Ireland, winning all six games, scoring 34 goals in the process and conceding one.
Over his five years as Norway coach, Sjögren has mainly stayed loyal to variations of his 4-4-2 system. At the Algarve Cup last February, the Swede did try to out three central defenders in the two matches against Portugal and Italy, but quickly reverted to a line of four defenders and has stuck to that since. However, he now feels that he has the flexibility within his squad to make tactical changes throughout matches and during a long tournament.
Sjögren hopes that having the star duo of Caroline Graham Hansen and Ada Hegerberg available up front will mean that Norway do this time what they failed to do in 2017: score goals. He will also be delighted to have the captain Maren Mjelde back in the squad after a long injury absence. The 32-year-old truly is the heart, soul and leader of Norway’s central defence.
There is, however, a big question surrounding the goalkeeping situation. With the first choice, Cecilie Fiskerstrand, out with a ruptured ACL the position is now completely open with Guro Pettersen, Aurora Mikalsen and Sunniva Skoglund all viable options.
As the squad was announced, Sjögren and Mjelde said that the aim was to reach the semis and bring home a medal. “We have a championship ahead of us where there are five, six, seven teams that could win in,” Sjögren has said. “That is what makes the Euros so special. We’re not in the top three but I would say we’re an outsider behind the biggest nations.”
Martin Sjögren has been in the position since early 2017 but his tenure got off to a pretty terrible start, with Norway failing to score a single goal at that year’s Euros and then Ada Hegerberg saying she was stepping back from international football in September. However, Sjögren and his assistants have done an impressive job in rebuilding the team, creating a good team spirit that helped the team reach the World Cup quarter-finals two years later. The 45-year-old Swede is a calm, sympathetic and likeable person whose big passion outside football is padel (a mix between tennis and squash).
Ada Hegerberg is back and she is already making up for lost time. In her first game for Norway after a five-year absence she scored a hat-trick (against Albania in April) and is now ready to strike fear into opposing defences at the Euros. Truly one of the best players in the world, she led Lyon to the Champions League and Division 1 Féminine titles this season and arrives at the Euros in top form. Described by her club and international teammates as a true leader, she has fought back from knee injuries and said upon returning to the Norway squad: “I can’t wait to inspire some new kick-ass kids”.
Julie Blakstad may not be a new name to fans in England after her transfer to Manchester City but this summer is the 20-year-old’s first opportunity to show her vast potential to a wider audience. She arrived in England after two years at Rosenborg and has been described as one of the best talents to ever come through in Norway. No pressure then. Often plays as a winger for City but is likely to be deployed as a left-back for Norway at the Euros. A quick and clever attack-minded player, Blakstad comes from the small town Ottestad and loves to spend time outdoors. Upon she joining City she said she had just bought a sleeping bag that could cope with temperatures of -20.
Tuva Hansen, Maren Mjelde, Maria Thorisdottir, Julie Blakstad
Amalie Eikeland, Frida Maanum, Ingrid Syrstad Engen, Guro Reiten
Caroline Graham Hansen, Ada Hegerberg
Hege Riise. Crowned World Player of the Year in 1995 Riise was one of the stars of the Norwegian Golden Generation that won the 1993 Euros, the World Cup two years later and the Olympic Games in 2000. The 52-year-old is still the all-time most capped Norway player with 188 games. After retiring in 2006, she went into coaching and after a successful career in Norway with LSK Kvinner she became England interim coach in 2021 and led Team GB at the Tokyo Olympics, where they were eliminated by Australia at the quarter-final stage. In 2003 Riise was named the Best Female Player of All Time by the Norwegian Football Federation.
Euro 2017 may have ended disastrously but Norway have a successful past in the competition. No nation has finished in the top three overall than Norway with a total of nine podium finishes (two gold, four silvers and three bronzes). They have qualified for 11 of the 12 official European Championships that have been arranged since 1984, reaching nine semi-finals and playing in no fewer than six finals. The two wins came in 1987 and 1993 while, since the turn of the century, they have lost two finals against Germany: 1-3 in 2005 and 0-1 in 2013.
Realistic aim this summer
The Norwegian team have a good chance to progress from Group A but are then likely to come up against one of the tournament favourites, Germany or Spain, in the quarter-finals. Anything could happen in a game like that but Norway have a challenge on their hands if they are to reach the semis.