Norway’s national women’s football team is bound for the World Cup next year, after winning a critical match against Ukraine Wednesday night. “We were awesome,” claimed the team’s jubilant coach Eli Landsem.
Landsem said her players “created lots of opportunities throughout the match” and told website Aftenposten.no: “This is super.”
Women’s football (soccer) still doesn’t attract anywhere near the hype that the men’s version of the sport does, and the match played at the modest Nadderud stadium outside Oslo attracted only a little over a thousand spectators, compared to the 25,000 who turned out to see the men’s national squad play Portugal last week. But that didn’t dampen the women’s spirits, not least because next year’s World Cup is also the qualifying tournament for the next Summer Olympics in London.
“Being in the World Cup is really important,” says Landsem. “This effects the next three years,” she adds.
Play by play
Norway scored six minutes into the match. A serious error by the Ukrainian goalkeeper sent the Norwegians into the lead. Keeper Nadia Baranova played better a few minutes later, giving an excellent save, which blocked Lene Mykjåland’s shot at the goal. Halfway through the first half, Mykjåland tried her luck once more, but again Baranova defended her goal successfully.
Both of Mykjåland’s attempts at goal were ably assisted by Cecilie Pedersen, who gave the best performance of the Norwegian team before half-time, according to Aftenposten.no.
Attempts to increase the one-goal lead continued in the second half. Lise Klaveness played the ball through to Solveig Gulbrandsen. She lobbed the ball over Baranova, but a Ukrainian defender caught up with it before it crossed the goal line.
Some 15 minutes later, Klaveness made another attempt, but the ball rebounded from the goalpost after slipping through Baranova’s fingers.
With 20 minutes left to play, Mykjåland faced the Ukrainian keeper for the fourth time during the match. Baranova missed, but the ball went wide of the goal. Gulbrandsen followed a minute later, but the keeper saved again.
The winning goal
The deciding goal came five minutes before full-time. Once again Gulbrandsen was alone against the goalkeeper. She decided to lob the ball over Baranova, who had no way to stop it, with the result that Norway was through to the World Cup.
Despite the many lost scoring opportunities during the match, the Norwegian women’s team had achieved their aim, and as the final whistle blew at Nadderud stadium they joined their fans in jubilation.
The World Cup will be played next summer in Germany.