England beat Norway to reach quarterfinals
English women’s soccer finally has a few World Cup moments that deserve remembering. In 15 stunning minutes, the Three Lionesses overcame a 1-0 deficit, the blistering heat on a sunbaked artificial turf field, and their own disappointing and brief tournament history. They beat Norway 2-1 on Monday, delivering England its first tournament knockout-stage victory.
“The first emotion I’m feeling is a real sense of pride for team,” coach Mark Sampson said. “To show that character and resilience to come back from a goal down in this tournament is an incredible achievement.”
The win began with stellar goalkeeping from Karen Bardsley, who helped England weather Norway’s first-half push and keep the game goalless.
And then, after falling behind on Solveig Gulbrandsen’s goal off a corner kick in the 54th minute, England’s offense finally found its range.
Steph Houghton tied it by head- ing in Fara Williams’ corner kick in the 61st minute. And defender Lucy Bronze, from just outside the penalty area, won it in the 76th minute with a hard, line-drive shot that glanced in off the hand of goalkeeper Ingrid Hjelmseth.
“We showed an amazing amount of character today,” said Bardsley, who stopped four shots and was votes player of the match. “We went very, very deep to make it happen.”
And they have an opportunity to go even deeper.
After failing to win a knockout match in three previous World Cup appearances, sixth- ranked England advanced to a quarterfinal Saturday against host Canada at Vancouver, British Columbia.
“The individual players are now inked in the football history of England forever,” Sampson said. “But I reiterate, we want this journey to keep going.”
It was another disappointing World Cup exit for the 11th-ranked Norwegians, who won the 1995 championship under coach Even Pellerud. Norway finished fourth in 2007, then was eliminated in the group stage four years ago.
Not even Pellerud’s return as coach in 2012 could make a difference.
“To lose a game is something you always have to accept in football, but this was a hard way to lose it,” Pellerud said. “It was really disappointing for all of us. It feels not good.”
The difference was Norway’s inability to capitalize on its chances in the first half. The Scandinavians had three shots on goal off seven directed at the net.
Isabell Herlovsen was in alone in the 11th minute, only to be stopped by a left foot save from Bardsley.
Bronze misplayed the ball in the 39th minute, and the turnover allowed Ada Hegeberg to have a wide-open shot to the left of the net, only to be stopped by Bardsley.
“Without counting or being very precise, I think we had six or fantastic opportunities before England had one,” Pellerud said. “If you don’t capitalize on them, that is going to be a problem.”
Houghton tied the game when she outjumped two defenders and from about 6 yards headed in the ball off the far post.
Jill Scott, a 54th-minute substitute, then fed a perfect pass to Bronze, who was alone just atop the penalty area. Bronze punched a hard shot that glanced off a hand of Hjelmseth and into the net.
England, which has climbed the rankings in two years under Sampson, remains in contention to earn Europe’s third and final berth in next year’s women’s tournament at the Rio Olympics.
England entered 3-11-2 against Norway, but was 3-0-1 in the previous four meetings dating to 2006. That included a 1-1 tie in January 2014 in Sampson’s first game as coach.
The 32-year-old took over when Hope Powell was fired after England went 0-2-1 in the European Championship.
Despite the late-afternoon start, the game-time temperature was above 80 and the sun baked the Landsdowne Stadium’s artificial turf. The conditions were similar to Germany’s 4-1 win over Sweden on Saturday, when the temperature was measured at over 100 on the field.
Near the 25th minute, Swiss referee Esther Staubli called for a water break.