Norway’s “valiant challengers,” as the European football association UEFA described the country’s national women’s football team, were allowing some pride on Monday to replace their bitter disappointment at losing the Euro 2013 final to Germany on Sunday.
The Norwegians had beaten Germany earlier in the tournament, and declared they “absolutely” were capable of doing so again heading into the final at Solna in Sweden. They’d also beaten the Netherlands, Spain and, in an especially thrilling match, Denmark in group play that propelled them into the final. They failed, though, in once again holding off the German team that now has won the European championships six times in a row, this time by a score of 1-0.
It was, nonetheless, “a good match between two good teams,” Norwegian coach Even Pellerud told reporters when it was all over. Commentators claimed the Norwegian women actually played their best match of the championship action even though they lost: Norway was deemed to be on the offense, daring to hang on to the ball and smashing criticism that they’d played too defensively earlier.
That just made their disappointment greater when they lost, not least because they missed scoring on two penalty kicks. Germany’s goalkeeper Nadine Angerer was called the heroine for the victors, after brilliantly fending off both kicks by Norway’s Trine Rønning and Solveig Gulbrandsen. Norway’s goalkeeper, meanwhile, let Germany’s winning kick get by her.
(For photos and more match details, see UEFA’s rundown here.)
It was difficult to cheer up Rønning and Gulbrandsen afterwards, but as Norway assistant coach Roger Finjord told newspaper Aftenposten, “if it hadn’t been for Trine’s and Solveig’s contributions in this European championship, we’d never have made it to the final. Their efforts on the field have been fantastic. They’ll cheer up again. They’ll manage to tolerate missing a penalty kick in a Euro final.”
Silver medal pride
Gulbrandsen, after sitting dejected and alone on the bench for quite awhile after missing her chance, smiled later on and Rønning was able to crack a joke: “Of course you feel a bit like it’s your fault, but I was glad Solveig missed after me, because then she can take all the blame.”
Teammates wouldn’t let them take any blame, with several praising their efforts like Finjord did. “Sometimes you miss a kick, that’s just the way it is in football,” Marit Fiane Christensen told Aftenposten. “It’s sad, but we don’t blame Trine and Solveig.” Caroline Graham Hansen agreed: “There’s no one to blame. We stand together as a team regardless, that’s how we got this far.”
Their collective silver medals were hailed back home in Norway, with football fans also praising the Swedish organizers of Euro 2013. More than 41,000 spectators watched the match inside the Friends Arena in Solna, just outside Stockholm, and the Swedes were proud of their own bronze medals in the tournament as well.
Euro 2013 seemed to mark a new breakthrough for top women’s football in Norway, with several sports bureaucrats already talking about mounting a bid to organize their own European championships a few years from now.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund