Football women proud despite loss

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Norwegian football fans and their national women’s football team are out of the World Cup after England all but rolled over them Thursday night. They’re still proud of making it into the quarter-finals after lots of earlier conflicts, and playing well as a united team.

There wasn’t any jumping for joy when Thursday night’s quarter-final match against England ended with Norway’s 3-0 loss. PHOTO: Fotballforbundet

“This is absolutely no fiasco,” one of Norway’s star players, Caroline Graham Hansen, told state broadcaster NRK when it was all over. “We had set high goals for ourselves and we knew it would be difficult to reach them.”

The women had aimed for at least third-place trophy status, “and we unfortunately didn’t get that,” said the player who uses “Graham” on her jersey. She was actually a target of the English players who recognized the need to “neutralize” her if they hoped to win: Lucy Bronze of England told NRK that she thinks their 3-0 victory over Norway was a result of having more stamina and that they managed to stop Caroline Graham Hansen.

Bronze also said the 3-0 score can make it look like it was an easy match for England, but it “definitely” was not. She called it “tough” and noted that even though she felt England had control, statistics from the match were quite even.

‘Surprise of the tournament’
England’s head coach Phil Neville had also called Norway the “surprise of the tournament” before the two teams met, because of how well Norway played in its opening group matches. His team ended up scoring after just over two minutes of play, however, leading 2-0 at the break and then scoring a third goal as well.

Graham Hansen, who plays professionally for Barcelona, was undaunted, claiming that “we already wants to keep working and fight back hard at the next tournament. We can keep going for many years and hopefully win some championships.” She also told Norway’s TV2, which aired Thursday’s quarter-final, that the team “had won the respect we hoped to get.”

It was hard won, following two years of conflict over charges of a lack of support for women’s football in Norway and the decision by angry team member Ada Hegerberg, still ranked as the best women football player in the world, not to play for her national team. It was important for the rest of the women to prove they could manage to well without her.

Norway’s head coach Martin Sjögren said he was “extremely proud of how we have performed and played in the World Cup. We’re a strong group that works hard for one another.”

Norway’s 39-year-old veteran goalkeeper, Ingrid Hjelmseth, has played her last championship. PHOTO: NFF

One of the team’s veterans, however, has played her last championship. Goalkeeper Ingrid Hjelmseth, age 39, has spent the past 21 years getting up early to train before heading for her job as a civil engineer and then training and playing for the professional Norwegian team Stabæk.

She’s guarded Norway’s goal for the past 10 years, and commentators said she really couldn’t be blamed for England’s goals Thursday night. They were instead talking about how she fended off even more of them, winning applause from the crowd and hugs from teammates for one of them.

“It’s a bit sad,” Hjelmseth told NRK about playing her last championship match. “At the same time, I’m incredibly glad and proud of what we managed in this championship. It was a fine championship to end with.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund