Apparently, I chose to review two games that involved relentless attacks, solid defence, missed opportunities, and an inevitable result. At least this one threw in a hilarious own goal, some VAR drama, and a less scowling coach.
France are still considered outside favourites and playing in your hometown can either be an advantage or additional pressure. The crowd was pumped and every time France touched the ball, they went wild. From kick off though, they had every reason to as France went in for an early onslaught. Two free kicks just outside the penalty box within the first five minutes and more possession meant France were not messing around.
Norway showed similarities to New Zealand and pounced on the counter attacks. Herlovsen had a good hustle with Bouhaddi early on, missing a goal but demonstrating the sheer physicality the Norwegians. They were not backing down from every challenge, tackle, and pull. It was thrilling to watch.
In what was reminiscent of something that would happen in the A League, play was stopped in the 10th minute so the lineswoman could get a new flag as hers had broken. How does that even happen? And why couldn’t VAR show me? Useless. After a brief intermission, we were back on.
France focused on attacking down the right hand side as Diani proved to be significantly faster and more dominant on the ball than Minde. However, for all of Diani’s superb runs and passes into the box, Gauvin, Bussaglia, and Henry were failing to get past the Norwegian defence. Let’s do the time warp again!
During the half time discussion, it was mentioned that in their last 8 encounters, France had either beaten Norway 1-0 or it had ended in a draw. I was not hopeful of staying awake in the second half. Nobody really enjoys full defence games. It is why we all laughed at Chelsea during the Mourinho years, why we hate Italy after they score a single bullshit goal (#neverforget), and why the New Zealand defeat was so painful because you can’t win from defence. It also felt weird for me to be seeing two defensive based games so early in the tournament. But then we kicked off the second half.
Within 45 seconds, Guavin broke through the Norwegian defence and made it 1-0. It was a neat cross into the box and Norway were caught flat footed. I was more awake!
In the 53rd minute, Renard decided to give me an additional caffeine kick by scoring the most Vedran-esque own goal. Herlovsen put in a cross to no one and Renard had the following choices
1. Let the ball bounce right past you for a goal kick
2. Tap the ball outside the goal for a corner
3. Score an own goal to make it 1-1
Ladies and gentlemen, I am so glad she chose option 3. I needed a good laugh.
The game was back to even and with a few goals being scored, the pressure seemed to increase. The lust for a win was back for both teams and France turned all their attention on attack. The increased pressure on the defence might explain why in the 69 th minute, Engen decided to take a serious swing at Torrent. Though she did get the top of the ball, it was her studs taking out Torrent’s thigh that resulted in calls for a penalty and VAR review.
I agree it was a penalty. The forceful kick was nowhere near necessary when the attacker was that close to you and you were in the penalty box. Le Sommer stepped up and under the weight of Stade de Nice, netted it into the left-hand corner.
Norway probably left their attack a little too late and France went into the defensive. The pace slowed, I took a micro-nap and the game ended 2-1.
Norway were able to shut down the open movement that France enjoyed against South Korea and demonstrated that a good defence is again able to stop fast and fancy footwork. France have a lot of work to do if they want to be crowned champions and send the country into a dizzy with both male and female champions.
Norway are still expected to make it out of the group stage but with Nigeria pulling off a surprise win against South Korea, it is going to be an exciting photo finish.
By Nerisa Dozo