There is something so very perfunctory about this current Norway team, like Kent Brockman commentating on Portugal vs Mexico, drawling out a, “halfback passes to centre... back to wing... back to centre. Centre holds it... h-o-l-d-s-i-t.” There’s a lack of team inspiration, it’s just a group of 11 strangers on a pitch who occasionally pass to each other, but are largely just islands floating in a grass sea.
The moments of joy for Norway are when the team transmutes from an archipelago to Pangaea, players coming together and combing to actually get at their opposition, rather than having one solo dash and slice from Caroline Graham Hansen or a hopeful snapshot from Ada Hegerberg. But those moments are the rare ones for this team.
There’s nothing wrong with praising individual performances or having your star player produce a moment of magic, it’s that for Norway, it so frequently takes an individual effort. Graham Hansen drew praise for her performances in France but what of teammates Guro Reiten, Vilde Boe Risa or Isabell Herlovsen? Why could these players who had played together for years not find each other for their national team anymore?
The problem is not a new one, and there were arguably signs of cracks in the foundations when Norway went out of the 2015 World Cup under ageing coach, Evan Pellerud but things have only gone in one direction since. Stalwarts have retired and a new crop of players have come through as Maren Mjelde, Hegerberg and Graham Hansen have become the veterans of the team. What we get to witness with the Football Girls is one of the most talented generations, maybe not quite rivalling the Norway teams that could boast Hege Riise, Bente Nordby, Solveig Gulbrandsen and co’ but it doesn’t want for talent away from the front two.
We think of the Euros as being Germany’s tournament, and to be fair, they have won it eight times, but Norway have reached at least the semi-final in ten of their 12 outings at the tournament, hell, they’ve been in six finals. They are a team with an unrivalled pedigree, and yes, I’m including Germany in that assertion. Which is what made 2017 all the more jarring, it was Norway at a Euros, form didn’t really matter did it? The three matches they played in the Netherlands were steeped in misery, outplayed in the opener, on the wrong side of an flagged offside goal against Belgium and at such a low ebb, Graham Hansen couldn’t even strike a clean penalty against Denmark.
Their tournament ended after three matches, with no points or goals to show for their efforts and for Hegerberg, was the straw that broke the camel’s back leading to her self-imposed international exile. Fast-forward to now with Hegerberg back in the fold and Norway given the chance to write the wrongs of 2017 and correct their failings. Yet, watching them in Viborg, despite their advantage in the match, there was the sense that even with all that talent - and, let’s be real, all that sauce - they won’t be able to evoke the Norway teams of the 80s, 90s and 00s and it will, ultimately be another summer of disappointment for the Scandinavian nation.