Maren Mjelde’s Norway fell to an unfortunate 2-1 defeat at the hands of a sturdy France side last night.
The pressure was heaped onto the shoulders of Les Bleus before the game, but Norway could not muster enough chances to make the hosts pay in a muggy Nice.
Chelsea’s stars Mjelde and Maria Thorisdottir formed quite the centre-half partnership but were left to rue misjudgements as Valerie Gauvin and Eugenie Le Sommer made it two in two for France.
Superstar Wendie Renard scored an own goal to Norway some hope, but France gave them little time on the ball, the defeat meaning Norway need a victory in their next game to secure their route into the knockout stages.
New Chelsea forward Guro Reiten was showing The Blues fans what they can expect to see in the opening stages of the first half. On a number of occasions, the 24-year-old combined well with the Norwegian forwards, leaving the right-hand side of the French defence chasing her shadows.
Reiten soon created a chance for Karina Saevik. Again, she attacked the French defence showing off her ability to beat players one-on-one; a trait that can give any defender a nightmare. The ball landed at the feet of Saevik who planted her effort over the bar, much to the relief of the raucous French crowd at the Allianz Riviera.
Les Bleues won their opening group game 4-0 against South Korea. Towering centre-half Wendie Renard scored twice and was bound to cause a threat to the Norwegian defence from set-pieces. To cope with Renard, she was marked by 5’5 Chelsea defender Maren Mjelde. A mismatch it would seem, a severe case of little and large. However, in the opening 45 minutes, the 6’3 defender was given no space by Mjelde who dealt with the threat magnificently.
Chelsea’s Thorisdottir had a tough task in the first half. Left-back Kristine Minde struggled to cope with right winger Kadidiatou Diani leaving Thorisdottir with little choice but to leave her position to nullify the threat. The centre-half cut out several attacks as the Norwegians continued to battle against the tournament favourites.
Norway battled superbly in the first half, but France took it to the next level at the start of the second. Amel Majri collected the ball from Amandine Henry and drove at the stumbling Ingrid Wold. The Grasshoppers hadn’t quite set themselves up the second half and they were made to pay. A low cross caught left Thorisdottir on her heels and Valerie Gauvin was able to send the ball beyond Ingrid Hjelmseth.
The battle still continued on the pitch with Reiten at the heart of it all. The soon-to-be Chelsea midfielder swiftly moved the ball on to Isabell Herlovsen, a move which caused unforeseen problems for France. Renard misjudged a low cross and touched the ball into her own net. A horrendous blunder that gave Mjelde’s side a route back into game and sent the French into pandemonium. The French number three dropped to her knees, head into the palm of her hands, but an aurora of confidence was still visible.
The hosts secured the victory, with yet another controversial VAR decision. Referee Bibiana Steinhaus allowed the game to continue, momentarily, whilst the play was reviewed. Ingrid Engen and Marion Torrent went in for a 50/50, with the former making contact with the ball but also the French defender. The midfielder was seen to have made contact with studs showing.
World star Le Sommer stepped up and placed her penalty into the bottom corner. The forward darted towards the corner, putting her hands into the shape of a heart, exhibiting her love and appreciation for 34,000 fans that had packed into the Stade de Nice.
For the Chelsea stars of Norway, a battle to reach the knockout stages continues. Captain Mjelde will be hoping to lead her side as far as they can go, the signs of a well-established side were there for all to see. Host nation France secured their place in the next round as they look to continue their march towards FIFA Women’s World Cup glory.
France (4-3-3): 16. Bouhaddi; 10. Majri, 3. Renard, 19. Mbock Bathy, 4. Torrent; 15.
Bussaglia, 6. Henry ©, 17. Thiney; 11. Diani, 9. Le Sommer, 13. Gauvin
Subs: 1. Durande, 2. Perisset, 5. Tounkara, 7. Karchaoui, 8. Geyoro, 12. Laurent, 14. Bibault,
18. Asseyi, 20 Cascarino, 21. Peyraud-Magnin, 22. Debever, 23. Clemaron
Norway (4-4–2): 1. Hjelmseth; 2. Wold, 3. Thorisdottir, 6. Mjelde ©, 17. Minde; 21. Saevik,
8. Risa, 14. Engen, 16. Reiten; 10. Graham Hansen, 9. Herlovsen
Subs: 4. Hovland, 5. Hansen, 7. Thorsens, 11. Utland, 12. Fiskerstrand, 13. Asland, 15.
Eikeland, 18. Maanum, 19. Kvamme, 20. Haavi, 22. Nautnes, 23. Bogstad
By Sam Ward (@Sam_Ward00) – University of Derby Football Journalism student