Norway take down Cote d’Ivoire to book ticket to knockout round

Norway produced a pedestrian effort in Moncton on Monday afternoon, but their second place finish in Group B of the Women’s World Cup was never really in question as they finished group play with a 3-1 victory against Cote d’Ivoire.

Ada Hegerberg, a 19-year old who broke into the national team at 16, scored twice and could have had more for the Europeans who never raised their game to the level it had been against Germany when they got a 1-1 draw against one of the tournament favorites. Solveig Gulbrandsen also scored for Norway while Ange N’Guessan registered a beauty for the Africans. 

Because their goal-difference was so inferior to Germany at the start of play, the Norwegians’ only chance to finish top of the group was for the Germans to fail to defeat Thailand. As the Germans took care of their business, Norway will move on to a Monday round of 16 match against an opponent to be determined from Group F. 

That will be the second place team in Group F: Colombia, England, or France.

Cote d’Ivoire had been eliminated from the competition in the first two matches so were looking to make an impression in their final appearance. They did that with a solid effort over the first hour before the Norwegians clinched matters with two goals in six minutes. 

The Ivorians nearly did go on top in just the fifth minute when Inres Nehry found herself with space to shoot 14 yards out, but Ingrid Hjelsmeth sprawled on her line to save well. Just a minute later the Norwegians struck at the other end, Hegerberg able to get free on the right to tuck her shot into the near post corner. 

That did not signal the expected one-way traffic, however, the Africans willing to go forward against their favored opponents. The Norwegians were not working hard enough on attack, nor were they worried about closing down midfield quickly enough, so the Ivorians were able to make openings and enjoyed a fair balance of the play.

The Norwegians’ lack of focus was never clearer than in the 36th minute when Hegerberg was gifted a wide-open net from a simple cross but pushed her shot well wide of the right post.

Josee Nahi came close to getting Cote d’Ivoire level just after the restart, but her first shot was blocked by a sliding Marita Skammelsrud Lund before Hjelsmeth saved her second attempt from 12 yards.

Hegerberg finally got Norway some breathing space when she was sent in alone by Gulbrandsen to score in the 62nd minute. Gulbrandsen, herself, made it three for the winners five minutes later, open at the right post to head a cross home. 

N’Guessan’s second goal of the tournament was a 71st minute stunner, struck from long range to catch the near top right corner to produce one of the best strikes of the competition. It also gave Cote d’Ivoire a deserved reward on an afternoon when they showed they have progressed during their stay in Canada.