No matter how hard they tried Norway couldn't find a way past Denmark to register thier first points or goals of Euro 2017, the Danes able to progress to the quarter finals with their second win of the group stage.
Denmark strike an early blow
A poor header from Nora Holstad-Berge set Katrine Veje up, the winger opting to lay-off for captain, Pernille Harder, the attacker only able to skim her shot wide from the edge of the area. The two linked again moments later with happier consequences for Denmark, Harder’s lay-off struck well by the new Montpellier signing to beat Ingrid Hjelmseth and fire into the top corner.
With so much on the line neither side were sitting back, both defences worked early, Denmark forced to attack for their ramshackle back-line and Norway in dire need of goals, even before conceding. For Norway most of the team seemed fired up in attack, their press high from the outset, white shirts flocking forward as if their lives depended on it.
After an early flurry the game began to squeeze itself into midfield, the two Scandinavian nations tirelessly trying to keep each other out of their attacking thirds, Denmark led by Harder the best at breaking beyond. The Danish defence that little bit stronger than their opposition, Line Røddik and Stine Larsen under pressure on the left but coping, Norway’s front three needing little encouragement.
A Guro Reiten free kick twenty minutes in saw some building Norwegian pressure, a corner, just about cleared but white shirts relentless, rushing forward, desperate for the key to unlock the defence. A snap-shot from Reiten in the aftermath a vicious effort that whistled over Stina Lykke’s bar.
Able to bring it away, it was Denmark’s turn to ask questions of their opposition at a set-piece, a corner leading to a fine save from Hjelmseth who got down sharply to push Sanne Troelsgaard’s effort just wide for another corner. The tempo rising every minute that the ball travelled from one half of the pitch to the other, no love lost between the two teams.
Hjelmseth was called back into action again late in the half to dive on Frederikke Thøgersen’s cute effort from the afters at a corner. The Football Girls’ defence exposed and Harder went on another jinking run, ripping into the team to create space. Her one-two with Nadia Nadim saw the Portland Thorns attacker slip her shot wide of the near post and behind.
No joy from the spot
The Norway pressure began to rise again, the Grasshoppers looking dangerous just around the box before Ada Hegerberg went tumbling under challenge from Troelsgaard three minutes before half-time. Usually so realiable from the spot even Caroline Graham Hansen couldn’t open Norway’s account for the tournament, Lykke judging her penalty to perfection. The penalty stuck at mid-height to her left, Lykke’s dive just right to parry the ball the ‘keeper able to knock the ball clear again as the bodies advanced, a Danish boot around to clear. The half ending with another spell of Danish pressure.
Looking to find another goal early in the half, Denmark soon created an opening, Hjelmseth there to make two saves in the space of seconds as red shirts bore down on her goal. Still gasping for something, anything, to cling onto Norway dug deep again and brought the ball away, frantic to find some joy in the Netherlands.
Largely outclassed across the pitch, the Grasshoppers struggled for possession, every ball lost by the Danes swiftly regained, the team mostly well-disciplined not to over commit when pushed back. Refusing to let the game become stretched Denmark, did well to slow down where necessary before bursting forward. A glorious chance for a second not taken after Thøgersen had chased down a long ball, her touch to keep it alive for Theresa Nielsen before the woman from Vålerenga tried to set up Nadim, the ball tucked behind for a corner from two yards out.
A Reiten header from close range found Lykke’s grateful gloves as Denmark found themselves pinned back, the red and whites able to counter, a nasty injury to Hjelmseth stopping play dead. With both the goalkeeper and attacker – Nadim – going for the loose ball the pair collided, the goalie coming off far worse and needing lengthy treatment though fine to continue.
When the game restarted, with a substitution for each, Norway were the team to push to the front foot, a lofted ball forward almost dropping perfectly to Lisa-Marie Utland, the striker on the pitch for mere seconds. A snap-shot from Graham Hansen scraping the paintwork on its’ way over the bar as time ticked down for the Football Girls, almost four and a half hours gone for them in the Netherlands without a goal.
The tempo suddenly ramped up, Norway crashing forward and they hit the woodwork not once but twice in the space of seconds, white shirts piling into the box but just unable to get to the ball and send it home. Denmark brought the ball away before Norway cleared once more and fired back at them, the flag lofted as Graham Hansen found the back of the net, no luck for the Grasshoppers as their frustration continued. The crowd barely able to draw its’ breath as tired legs clashed, Norway looking for pride ad Denmark – unaware of what was happening in Tilburg frantic to hold on to secure a spot in the quarter-finals.
The injury to Hjelmseth ensured that Norway had time on time to try and find a goal or a point, their ten-minute clock running down as Lykke made another nervous save before Nielsen had to clear her own header off of the like with a bicycle kick. All bodies locked into the Danish half before red shirts finally brought the ball away and Nicoline Sørensen headed for the corner flag.
Bodies fell tired and heavy to the ground, Norway never giving up but Denmark unwilling to let them in, fouls here and knocks there the game crawling to its’ conclusion.
Norway out of the Euros and Denmark able to progress, two Scandinavian nations a world apart in the Netherlands, Norway’s best showing unfortunately for naught.