Day 6: The Real Housewives of Oslo
Norwegian drama, Filipino joy and Colombian stocks on the rise
Switzerland 0 - Norway 0
You’ve got to give it to the Norwegians. A nation described by their manager as effectively too small to do well at the World Cup. Their best player warning journalists that expectations were too high. Well it is worth having high expectations for them, at least when it comes to their ability to completely blow up at a tournament.
This game was must-win for the Norwegians - a lifeline having been handed to them by New Zealand losing to the Philippines before this match. Manager Hege Riise altered her midfield from the one that had lost the opening match by replacing Ingrid Engen with Vilde Boe Risa as well as changing both her wingers. Emilie Haavi replaced Julie Blakstad on the left with Amalie Eikeland - formerly of Reading - replacing Caroline Graham Hansen on the right.
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The decision to drop Graham Hansen was, to put it bluntly, astounding. She is one of only a handful of players at the World Cup who truly have the ability to create something out of nothing, and single handedly win her team a match. Meanwhile leaving Guro Reiten in midfield as an 8 continues to be a woeful use of her talents.
Things got even stranger when Ada Hegerberg promptly walked off the pitch just before kick off to be replaced by Sophie Roman Haug. Hegerberg had supposedly picked up an injury in the final sprints of the warm up, but the confusion on her teammates faces was clear to see.
The match itself was the sort of game that we have become familiar with from a Norway perspective. Switzerland were happy to let them have possession, sitting comfortably in a mid-block, and Norway struggled to get the ball into dangerous areas. They were very fixed - for example, playing Haavi and Reiten on the same side of the pitch could have been a great opportunity for the two to interchange and allow Reiten to pick up some of the positions we have seen her be so effective in for Chelsea, but there was very little of that kind of movement. Bar a duo of strong saves from the Swiss goalkeeper Gaëlle Thalmann, Norway created little.
The Swiss themselves were very savvy when they won back the ball. Content just to pass it around and conserve energy, they only looked to attack when the opportunity presented itself, feeling no need to force the match when they already had three points. It was a tactic that relies on them not losing to New Zealand in the final group game, but puts them in the strongest position in this group.
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