2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Preview: Norway

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The women of Norway’s national team are looking to put the nightmare of Euro 2017 behind them as they enter the 2019 Women’s World Cup with a strong squad and high expectations. 2017 was a complete fiasco for the Norwegians, who were one of the favorites and boasted 2019 Ballon d’Or Féminin Aga Hegerberg in their ranks, as previously covered by The Guardian. Instead, they were knocked out of the group stages without scoring a single goal. Things got even worse in the aftermath when Hegerberg left the team, leaving Norway without arguably the best player in the world.

After such a massive setback, it could be expected that Norway would fade from the conversation surrounding the top teams in the world, but the team led by manager Martin Sjögren did just the opposite. The depth of the squad was showcased in Norway’s impressive qualifying campaign, which included a victory over Euro 2017 champions the Netherlands. After losing the world-dominating talent of Hegerberg, Sjögren has put together a team that is strong structurally and defensively sound, with Chelsea’s Maren Mjelde and Maria Thorisdóttir holding the fort for the Norwegians. With recent Barcelona transfer Caroline Graham Hansen serving as the team’s creative force from the midfield and Isabell Herlovsen serving as the consistent goal threat at striker, Norway has the talent to put teams away and dominate lesser opponents.

Still, if Norway wants to live up to expectations and stake their claim among the world’s best, Herlovsen will need to have the tournament of her career to offset the loss of Hegerberg. The Lyon player has a good goalscoring record for the national team, having registered 57 goals since she made her debut in 2005. During decisive moments in the qualifying stages, Herlovsen has stepped up and proven clutch, with her biggest moment coming when she scored the winner against the Netherlands in the match that secured Norway’s qualification to the World Cup.

While missing the dominant force that would make them the favorites, Norway are a good team with very few weaknesses. Only the squad’s health could be called into question as Thorisdóttir has faced a serious injury that forced her to miss the majority of her club season and 39-year-old first-choice goalkeeper Ingrid Hjelmseth may not carry the same durability she once had, despite the wealth of experience and knowledge she brings to the position.

Despite being in a tough group with France, Nigeria, and South Korea, Norway has already proven against the Netherlands that they have no issues with defeating the big teams and should be one of the favorites to make it through to the knockout stages. Boasting a squad talented enough to make it to the latter stages of the tournament, Norway may be just behind the powerhouses that are expected to leave with a medal, but they’ll definitely be in the mix.