LONDON: Norway suffered a shock exit from Euro 2022 as the pre-tournament title contenders crashed to a 1-0 defeat against Austria on Friday. Despite the presence of Lyon star Ada Hegerberg in their line-up, former European champions Norway paid the price for another lacklustre display in Brighton. Norway failed to advance from Group A after a second successive loss, while Austria progressed to the quarter-finals as runners-up behind England.
England, already assured of topping the group, crushed Northern Ireland 5-0 in their last game to move into the last eight with three successive wins and without conceding a single goal. Needing a victory to move above Austria in their final group match, Norway were pushed towards elimination after 37 minutes when Nicole Billa headed in Verena Hanshaw’s cross.
The Norwegians were unable to muster a comeback and it was Austria who could have won by a bigger margin with more clinical finishing. Norway goalkeeper Guro Pettersen made several fine saves to give her side a chance, but Austria’s Manuela Zinsberger thwarted Celin Bizet and Hegerberg in the closing stages. Thrashed 8-0 by England in their previous game, Norway’s tournament had quickly turned sour after the initial optimism fuelled by a 4-1 victory over Northern Ireland in their first group match.
“We had higher belief in ourselves than to be out of the tournament this soon. So of course, I feel totally empty,” Norway manager Martin Sjogren said. Former Women’s Ballon d’Or winner Hegerberg added: “Everyone has a responsibility in this, myself included. “There has to be a brutal honesty in evaluating everything that’s happened in the last few weeks in order to actually bounce back from this. “It’s almost that I want to apologize because of all the support we’ve got.”
As Norway head home, Austria can looking forward to playing eight-time European champions Germany in the quarter-finals at Brentford on Thursday. Alessia Russo struck twice as England maintained their flawless run against hapless Northern Ireland in Southampton. England were without boss Sarina Wiegman after she tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday.
But Wiegman’s absence couldn’t halt in-form England’s momentum as Fran Kirby’s curler put the hosts ahead in the 40th minute. Beth Mead doubled England’s advantage with her fourth goal of the tournament just before half-time. Russo, having replaced Ellen White at half-time, found the net twice in quick succession soon after the restart. England’s fifth goal came when Northern Ireland’s Kelsie Burrows sliced the ball over goalkeeper Jacqueline Burns into her own net.
England assistant coach Arjan Veurink admitted Wiegman was not certain to return in time for the last eight. “We have to see. We have to manage it day by day, hopefully she is back in business as soon as possible,” Veurink said. “We plan for scenarios and the world we are living in it could happen. We spoke about it and we’re well prepared. She’s managing the staff and players brilliantly.” England will face the runners-up from Group B, either Spain or Denmark, in the quarter-finals. – AFP