Chelsea Women manager Emma Hayes spoke on BBC 5 live ahead of the quarter-final clash between Norway and England tonight, which involves seven of her players.
England’s team includes Chelsea captain Karen Carney, striker Fran Kirby, centre-back Millie Bright and goalkeeper Carly Telford. While Norway have Blues defenders Maren Mjelde and Maria Thorisdottir, plus our newest recruit, Guro Reiten.
Hayes gave her view on this evening’s match and offered an insight on what to expect from her Chelsea players.
‘I’m the manager of Chelsea, my loyalties are always with Chelsea however, I’m English,' said the Chelsea boss. 'I want all three [Norway] players to have an exceptional game and England win, that would be an ideal scenario.
‘I think this will be the tightest game so far for England, I think the difference in rankings is insignificant based on form.
‘I think Norway are the form team in the tournament and throughout their side in every game they have been exceptional. But they are coming up against an England team that’s efficient – they don’t get a lot of chances but they take them, so it will be a battle I suspect of my two centre-backs and Ellen White.’
‘I think that will be a key battle in the game, then I think England’s left-back against the spaces [Caroline Graham Hansen] picks up. And then there's Reiten, that has the quality but maybe doesn’t have as much influence in every action but everything she does is of top quality.
‘England need to get Ellen White into good positions to bring out the best in Maria and Maren, that is my guess.'
Yesterday it was confirmed by Phil Neville that Bright is a ‘major doubt’ for tonight’s game due to suffering with a virus and Hayes insisted the defender will give everything to try to recover in time to play in such an important match.
‘These players know better than to let that information out of their camp, they're too professional for that,' Emma added. 'I think Millie will do everything she can to play and I expect that will happen.’
Hayes also discussed the importance of Bright being present in England’s back-line and praised Norway’s defence, which includes Mjelde and Thorisdottir.
‘She’s played against Hansen for Chelsea against Wolfsburg a million times so she’ll know the threats that come with that, much as the same way Fran knows what it’s like to play against Maren and Maria. These could be the differences between the game.
‘I think they [Norway] look more resilient because the back four, back five have played together in almost every game and for that reason it makes them stronger than England.'
Kirby is yet to score at this World Cup, yet tonight would be a fantastic opportunity for her to do so against her two Norwegian team-mates.
‘I think this is a game that any top player will relish and I think her performances have been improving as the tournament has progressed,’ Hayes said about Kirby.
‘Fran has the ability to unlock a defence with a single pass in a single moment in a way that not too many players do have and she will certainly be up for the challenge of trying to bypass Thorisdottir and Mjelde.
‘They’re interesting aspects because finding the edge when you know someone so well is really hard, because you’ve got to be able to produce something a little bit different because players read you.’