Although Norway gave the tournament hosts a serious fight tonight, a VAR penalty decision resulted in an unfortunate 2-1 defeat for our Norwegian duo Maria Mjelde and Maria Thorisdottir in front of 34,872 fans in Nice.
It was a frustrating evening for Norway who suffered a slender defeat to France due to a lapse of concentration which resulted in an immediate second-half goal by Valerie Gauvin, plus a controversial penalty decision in the closing stages of the match netted by Eugenie Le Sommer. Norway were gifted a goal when Wendie Renard prodded the ball into the back of her net, but Norway will still feel very hard done by and that they should have taken a point away tonight.
Both nations breezed past their opponents in their World Cup openers with Les Bleues’ dominant 4-0 display over Ji So-Yun’s South Korea and Norway overcoming a physical Nigerian side, scoring three first-half goals. However, this game was the complete opposite for both sides and they did not make it easy for each other as they defended resolutely.
The Nordic side lined up in a 4-4-2 formation. Mjelde skippered her nation and remained in a centre-back pairing with her Blues’ team-mate Thorisdottir, while soon-to-be Chelsea player Guro Reiten was positioned on the left of midfield.
The tournament hosts began quickly as expected, but Norway dealt well with it. Mjelde and Thorisdottir in particular did extremely well to keep out France’s direct attacking force, including the likes of Lyon’s Le Sommer and Paris Saint-Germain’s Kadidiatou Diani.
Although Norway’s back-line had their hands full for the majority of the first half, they grew in confidence going forward as the game progressed, with Reiten involved with most of the counter-attacks. She burst clear down the left flank and created the first notable chance for her nation when she spotted and delivered to Norway’s all-time top goal scorer, Isabell Herlovsen, who was unable to finish on target.
Although Norway had done a superb job of containing the hosts in the first half, it took just one minute of the second half for them to open the scoring. Le Sommer transferred the ball to Lyon’s Amel Majri and she curled a delightful cross into the box that found its way to the feet of Valerie Gauvin. The Montpellier forward shrugged off Thorisdottir and dispatched her effort past Ingrid Hjelmseth in goal.
However, France’s lead did not last long and less that 10 minutes later Norway found themselves back in the game when Lyon’s Renard poked the ball into her own net from six-yards out after attempting to clear Herlovsen’s low cross. Norway celebrated like they had won the match!
VAR played its part in another Women’s World Cup when a controversial penalty was confirmed for France. Referee Bibiana Steinhaus reviewed an incident in the box after Marion Torrent was caught by Norway defender Ingrid Syrstad Engen as she tried to clear the ball. After some delay, Le Sommer kept her cool and slotted her low penalty into the right corner with 20 minutes left to play to record her second goal of the competition thus far.
France came away with all three points but Norway gave one of the tournament favourites a big scare, especially after Reynard’s own-goal. Norway’s final Group A fixture is against South Korea on 17 June in Reims, meaning that the Chelsea trio will come up against team-mate Ji.