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Women’s Euro 2022: Guro Reiten stars as Norway run rampant against Northern Ireland

Another Reiten special with a side of Graham-Hansen

Norway v Northern Ireland: Group A - UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 Photo by Harriet Lander/Getty Images

Northern Ireland women made history by playing their first match in a major international tournament. Unfortunately for them, they went up against a front line consisting of Guro Reiten, Ada Hegerberg and Caroline Graham-Hansen. Norway, featuring Chelsea’s own Reiten and Mjelde, were on top since minute one with Graham-Hansen causing all kinds of trouble in a free #10 role. Graham-Hansen usually features out wide for Barcelona and is seen as a threatening winger but for Norway she has been greater leeway to come seek the ball and cause trouble. This choice paid off in troves as she became the link between midfield and attack. This mazy dribble in the 6th minute of the game set the tone for what was to come for Northern Ireland.

Norway deployed an aggressive press, committing large numbers to win the ball within Northern Ireland’s defensive third, as they tried to play out from the back. Norway were able to fence in Northern Ireland and could attack at will. The inevitable first goal came from a goal kick which was forced out of play. The resulting Norway throw-in was quickly moved across the pitch to Julie Blakstad who was in acres of space. Reiten’s swivel and pass allowed Blakstad to take it in her stride and shoot, beating goalkeeper Jacqueline Burns at the near post.

With the pattern set, Northern Ireland held on for dear life as Norway peppered the goal at will. While Graham-Hansen deservedly got the accolades, the importance of Reiten in this team cannot be understated. Her playmaking ability is at elite levels, especially in this more advanced role. But as always, what makes her special is the ability to produce the spectacular. Norway were awarded a freekick on the edge of the box as the advancing Graham-Hansen was impeded. Reiten picked up the ball and then curled it immaculately into the bottom corner with the goalkeeper unsighted by both the Northern Ireland wall and Norway’s wall of players. A contender for goal of the tournament in the second matchday.

Hegerberg was forced to wait for her first goal of this tournament after a wonderful flowing move between her, Reiten and Graham-Hansen was ruled out for offside. She had other opportunities as well and will hope to find that finishing touch against England on Monday.

Northern Ireland managed to score a goal in the first half extra-time through a set piece but Norway had already run away with the match by then. They showed their quality in the opening match and put their opponents to the sword, something England didn’t manage to do. Both teams will be wary of the threats each team has on offer but perhaps England will be the happier as they were able to rest Fran Kirby and Beth Mead while all three of Reiten, Hegerberg and Graham-Hansen played the full 90.

The tie between England and Norway is setup to be a very entertaining one. Both teams’ defenses have some porosity, England in wingback areas and Norway in central defense. Lucy Bronze will have her work cut out for her as she deals with the exceptionally in form Reiten. England also need to put aside some of the selfish tendencies they displayed and give the ball to their best player, Fran Kirby, far far more often. They may also need to put Williamson in midfield to add discipline and steel while they deal with the mercurial Graham-Hansen. Walsh-Stanway combination was badly exposed towards the end of the half against Austria and Sarina Wiegman will be very aware of that.

Norway on the other hand will try to find opportunities in transition given Graham-Hansen’s ball carrying ability and Hegerberg’s threat in behind. The rest of the team will be set up to work hard and frustrate England. The midfield duo of Engen and Maanum theoretically have the legs to do it. But will Mjelde and Thorisdottir be able to weather England’s crosses while Mead and Hemp make runs to the far post? That being said, it is great to see the Chelsea contingent at both countries thrive and perform at a very high level. The tie is set up to be an intriguing one and will hopefully deliver the spectacle the record crowd was denied at Old Trafford on the opening day.

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