As some of the world's elite teams continue to prepare for the European Championship this summer, England's tussle with Norway is a game everyone will have an eye on.
Out with the old....
A stunner from Lucy Bronze was the difference last time England and Norway faced off, the Lionesses given their first ever knock-out win in a Women’s World Cup and Norway’s progression halted, the Football Girls sent home from Canada early.
The Lionesses still bask in that hazy Summer of 2015, claiming a medal at a Women’s World Cup for first time ever, England having continued to build on that legacy, Mark Sampson always looking to add to and strengthen his side.
But life has been rather different for the Grasshoppers, a successful Euro qualification the highlight of Roger Finjord’s short spell in charge of the national team, the man the NFF had replaced veteran Evan Pellerud with after Canada. Temporary solutions for the Grasshoppers but with a new manager in Martin Sjögren, the team who’ll be taking to the La Manga pitch will be a side much removed from the one the English remember.
With two players part-way through their season in the Norway squad and 13 players having gotten game time in their legs three days prior against Sweden on the same pitch, England will be coming up against a fresher team. No one in Sampson’s squad having seen a competitive match for two months.
The win in Canada was England’s fourth against Norway and in fact, the Nordic side are without a win in their last six against England and furthermore no one in the current squad has scored against England.
Playing to their own strengths
With a game in the locker against Sweden, Norway are coming into the contest more match-fit but it also gave England a chance to see how the Football Girls are lining up under their new boss and how to cancel out their well-known strike force. Goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain is hopeful that England can “play to their own strengths and nullify their threat,” ready to deal with the “clinical finishers” in the Scandinavian team.
Aware they’ll be up against an “aggressive and technical” side, Chamberlain is expecting to see more of an even contest as it was last time the two met.
A natural midfielder, Jo Potter is equally at home in a back-three – Sampson’s recently favoured system – and is happy that the team has another dimension to attack though with the new formation. Saying, “It’s a nice attacking formation and playing with an extra player in midfield gives us more time and options on the ball.”
Fans of England will be aware that, injuries permitting, Steph Houghton will be the anchor of any back three and Potter is glad of time under her belt next to the captain, “We’ve played the last handful of games together and it’s nice to have the consistency so you can get used to playing alongside each other.”
With almost all of both still very much in pre-season, the match will be more about preparation and understanding for both sides, although both will be looking for a win the upcoming Euros cast a long shadow.