Norway’s campaign for the 2023 World Cup until Sunday had been defined by lackluster football, reported discontent in the dressing room as one star was benched and another absent due to injury, and a only point and zero goals in two games. This left the 12th-ranked team in the world on the brink of elimination in the group stage.
Then came Sunday’s decisive game at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, where a plucky Filipino side with hopes of making history had all of Norway’s frustrations channeled into a comprehensive performance.
Sophie Haug netted a hat-trick for Norway, including two goals in the first 17 minutes to subdue a boisterous, pro-Philippines crowd of 34,697 fans, and Norway prevailed 6-0 to advance to the knockout stages of the tournament.
The emphatic result ensured that Norway would move from the group to second place. They will face the winner of Group C, either Spain or Japan.
Switzerland took the lead in Group A thanks to a scoreless draw with New Zealand in a match played simultaneously in Dunedin. This result eliminated New Zealand, making them the first host nation to never progress beyond the group stage.
Caroline Graham Hansen dazzled as she returned to Norway’s starting line-up after being dropped for the scoreless draw with Switzerland five days earlier. Graham Hansen scored Norway’s third goal of the night with a blistering shot from 25 yards that leapt inside the near post.
Three minutes earlier, she turned, turned and nutmeg Filipino defender Angela Beard in one fluid motion, then sent a low cross to Haug, who sent the ball behind her back and missed the near post by inches for this that would have been a hat trick. .
After that match against Switzerland, Graham Hansen went wild and revealed an apparent row in the Norwegian camp. “I feel like I’ve been trampled on for a whole year,” she said. She apologized shortly after the comments, saying emotions got the better of her.
Frustrations had boiled over in the Norwegian camp, having entered this game sitting bottom of Group A after losing to tournament co-hosts New Zealand 1-0 in the opener. They followed up that disappointment with the scoreless draw against the Swiss in a game which saw Graham Hansen left out of the starting line-up.
Star striker Ada Hegerberg, winner of the 2018 Ballon d’Or, was dropped from the line-up moments before kick-off against Switzerland due to muscle strain. She remained absent for this meeting with injury.
But Hegerberg’s substitute in the last two games, Haug, stepped up her efforts: her first goal was a sensational volley from a sharp angle at the far post six minutes into the match.