Norway’s female football stars beat Denmark’s national team in a dramatic semi-final on Thursday night, securing a ticket for the final against Germany this weekend. Their success in the European Championships has also sparked new interest in Norway in organizing a future Euro tournament.
Norway’s victory was hard-won and was secured only after a penalties face-off. Members of the Danish team left the arena weeping with disappointment, having dominated most of the match against their northern neighbors.
The action-packed match in Sweden’s Norrköping arena took place amid heated debate among various Norwegian football experts over the quality of women’s football and whether it is interesting enough to deserve media coverage. Egil “Drillo” Olsen, veteran coach of the Norwegian men’s national squad, has argued that it certainly is, and most newspapers seemed to agree. They’ve devoted many pages to the national team’s performance since the European Championships began in Sweden last week, while Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) has carried their matches live on nationwide TV.
Big crowds in Sweden
The matches at Euro 2013 have themselves attracted thousands of spectators in Sweden and the Swedes’ success in organizing the championship action has motivated Norwegian football officials to consider mounting a bid to host a European Championship in Norway themselves. The next possibility would be in 2019.
“Regardless of what happens in Sweden now, there’s an expressed desire by our board that we arrange an A-team championship for women and a U21 (under age 21) championship for men,” Kjetil Siem, secretary general of the Norwegian Football Federation (NFF) told newspaper Aftenposten on Thursday.
That was even before the Norwegian women got off to a dream start Thursday night when Marit Fiane Christensen scored after just three minutes of play. Denmark soon came on the offensive, though, and pressured Norway throughout most of the match.
Prime Minister quick to congratulate
Just four minutes before full time, the Danes were rewarded as Mariann Gajhede Knudsen tied the score at 1-1. The final moments and subsequent extra time did nothing to change the tie, forcing a finish by penalties which Norway eventually won 4-2.
Norwegian goalkeeper Ingrid Hjelmseth was widely credited for the victory, after fending off Danish goals. “This was just crazy,” Hjelmseth told NRK after the match ended. “It’s tough with penalty play, but nothing feels better than to win.”
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg was among those congratulating Hjelmseth on Twitter, writing “What a keeper, what a goal – now we’re going for gold!”
Solveig Gulbrandsen, Cathrine Dekkerhus, Maren Mjelde and Trine Rønning all delivered four solid kicks and thus also helped nail the Norwegian victory. “I’m just bubbling over,” said an elated Trine Rønning to NRK, adding, though, that “Ingrid (Hjelmseth) made it so easy for us others with her great saves.”
Rønning admitted that “I never thought we’d make it this far.” The Norwegian players are now assured of at least silver medals after making it into the final against Germany, which the Norwegians beat last week before going on to beat Spain. The final match is scheduled for Sunday at 4pm.