Against the run of play
Will they? Won’t they? Are they? Aren’t they? There was more than a handful of questions surrounding Norway coming into the tournament and the first 15 minutes didn’t bode well for the Nordic nation.
Nigeria pressed them hard, spreading attackers across the front line, using bursts of speed to get beyond and test one of the more questionable defences at the tournament. Going forward, the Football Girls were well marshalled by Faith Michael and Onome Ebi, Guro Reiten’s opener very much against the run of play.
With one goal under their belt – possibly having exorcized any daemons from two years ago – Norway seemed to relaxed, Caroline Graham Hansen’s deft footwork to set up Reiten the sign that they had settled. Yet still Nigeria pressed and swarmed the home team but, despite a wealth of attacking prowess, couldn’t find a way of punishing Norway.
Doing well to counter and move the ball quickly, the Nordic nation claimed their second goal ten minutes before the break when Reiten’s ball found Lisa-Marie Utland in space. The Rosengård woman happy to pull her foot back and slam the ball into the roof of the net, high over Tochukwu Oluehi. Two became three minutes later when the ball was whipped in for Utland, the striker leaning to reach it with her head, Osinachi Ohale’s intervention only enough to take it past her own goalkeeper.
A serious looking injury to Michael early in the second half left the latter stages of the match feeling fractured and unfocused. Much like the other Group A match, the night before, the second half failed to match the first, the bite taken out of the action leaving everything feeling a little flat.
Overall, apart from a golden opportunity for Asisat Oshoala, the last half hour progressed without incident. The European team still created their half chances and the African one still desperately hunted a conciliation but it was to no avail.
Tight at the top and bottom
The win makes things quite snug in Group A, although there’s only been one round of fixtures the group already looks like it will be divided into the top two seeds against each other as well as the bottom two.
As well as Michael, there was some good industry from Francisca Ordega to get Nigeria running in attack, even if the efforts of the team came to naught. For Norway, it was all about Graham Hansen’s elegant dribbling and Reiten’s work, the new Chelsea signing stretching her heatmap across the width and length of the pitch. A creator, a goalscorer and a defender at points, Reiten stole the show.