Maren Mjelde on an emotional year with Norway
Credit: Getty/Trond Tandberg

Maren Mjelde on an emotional year with Norway

Norway captain talks about margins 

Sophie Lawson

Following their win over the Netherlands to directly qualify for the World Cup we spoke to Norway captain Maren Mjelde about the match.

Third time’s the charm

After a shaky year and a half following the instillation of Martin Sjögren as Norway coach that saw the team record their worst ever finish at a European Championships, the Football Girls successfully navigated the qualification group of the upcoming World Cup.

With a few good results and a few not so good results heading into the Euros, Norway were somewhat of an unknown quantity, with the quality to go far but seemingly lacking the substance to see them through. With three losses from three group games and not one goal to show for 270 minutes of hard work in the Netherlands, the Norwegian side looked to be at their lowest ebb. From their first match against the hosts in Utrecht, the team only seemed to be more and more at odds with each other over the summer.

Drawn into a qualification group with the European Champions, the Football Girls fell to a loss in Groningen as Vivianne Miedema’s late punt slipped all the way through giving the Dutch their second 1-0 win over Norway within six months. From one of their worst matches in Utrecht to one of their most nervy in Oslo, Norway finally found a way around the Dutch, relegating the Oranje to the UEFA Word Cup play-offs.  

On a looping emotional rollercoaster that Alton Towers would be happy to have, Mjelde ranks the win up there with some of her proudest moments representing her nation.

Emotionally today it’s probably one of the biggest achievements because we had a really bad year last year with the Euros and maybe, that one game away last year… so emotionally I think this is almost the biggest moment of my career.

Not just the weaker team in their previous two meetings but unable to find a way passed Sari van Veenendaal, Norway looked to have opened the floodgates at the Intility Arena and quick-fire goals from Ingrid Engen and Isabell Herlovsen had the stadium rocking. Unsurprisingly, the Dutch found a way back into the match and made the subsequent 84 minutes less than comfortable for the hosts.

It was a good start, a really good start, 2-0 after six minutes and then you start to look at the clock after six minutes. The game got really long and it was a really hard game; we knew that it would be hard from before the game started and I’m just really happy we won and qualified.”

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Fine margins

Only needing a draw to qualify for the World Cup, the Dutch remained very much in the match until the final whistle, the hosts needing to hold onto their lead to make it to France.

That was my only thought really; the World Cup, that was the only thought in my head. Especially after they scored then I was like, no, they’re not going to score again, that’s their lot now.”

Having pulled one back for the visitors, Miedema very nearly had a second moments later but a flying boot from Ingrid Hjelmseth was enough to deny the striker. In a match that devolved into attack versus defence, the potent Dutch couldn’t find another goal, the luck with the hosts.

I felt that we had the margins on our side more than they had. The last couple of games they’ve had the margins on their side and today was our time and our turn to win the game.”

A cathartic win that nicely bookended a forgettable year and a half for the Football Girls, the match turning a new page in the footballing history of the country.

It was a bit like third time lucky, two games where we lost 1-0 so we knew that if we had the margins on our side we could win against them and so we did and I’m just so proud of the whole team.”

With a push not just to draw in as many fans as possible but for them to very much be the 12 woman (#12kvinne), it was clear the 5,134 strong crowd in Oslo were fully behind their team. The small pocket of orange resistance drowned out as soon as Engen’s goal kissed against the back of the net, the atmosphere completely translating over to the pitch and the 11 in red and blue on it.

We could, especially when we went 1-0 and 2-0 up and also after 2-1, I felt we had the crowd on our side and that’s probably a thing that Holland isn’t used to.