Kelly Smith Women’s Euro column: England face Norway not only Ada Hegerberg

09 Jul 2022 | 08:11

England legend Kelly Smith returns for her second Sporting Life column at the Women’s Euro 2022, focusing on the Lionesses’ encounter with Norway on Monday.

British nerves will get better

You can see especially in the first 10 minutes of Win Austria 1-0 that the English players were really worried.

I think we all expect that. It’s only natural for you to open the league at home as the favorites to win the entire game in front of the biggest crowd of your life of 68,000 inside Old Trafford. It’s also really huge, which seems to contribute to the excitement and tension of all the games.

The English players will certainly feel much better having a smooth first game, removing some of the anxiety and still going out on the pitch with great enthusiasm not to concede a goal. Most importantly, they achieved all that really matters in that first game, whether you’re the best or not, which is taking three points across the board.

No one will remember the first game if you get through the rounds or rounds.

You never want to lose your first game.

Can Williamson switch to midfield?

Nervousness was certainly a major factor on Wednesday, but Sarina Wiegman was also a bit of a surprise with her team selection.

Sarina clearly had her own idea of ​​what she wanted. I really don’t know why she changed it at the last minute to switch captain Leah Williamson to centre-back using Alex Greenwood and Millie Bright repeatedly in the preparation for her centre-back pairing.

Perhaps she saw something tactical about Austria that she wanted to exploit.

You could argue England missed the long run that Greenwood gave you from the back, but Wiegman put Georgia Stanway in midfield by moving Williamson into defence and Stanway won man of the match. .

And it worked out in the end because they won, but it will be interesting to see if she brings Greenwood back to the game against Norway, and if she does, who will make room for Williamson. in midfield to go further on the pitch?

Kirby could be the key

A big positive in Wednesday’s game was Fran Kirby.

Fran is an amazing talent. She missed the last three months of the season for Chelsea due to fatigue so definitely not quite fit and that’s why she needed to be on the pitch after an hour, but she has definitely developed. fitness and confidence through the warm-up matches and then the victory over Austria.

If England want to win this tournament, they need to let Fran Kirby keep the ball as much as possible in that No 10 role.

She makes things happen by dribbling in between the touchlines and in the first half – just as she did for Beth Mead’s winning goal – and is also capable of turning and heading towards goal.

We haven’t seen many players in the game make such important passes with as much precision as hers.

If England can find her in the gap in the final third game, she will be key to them scoring and ultimately succeeding this summer.

Norway is not a one-man team

There will certainly be less pressure and less stress for England in Monday’s game, but Norway beat Northern Ireland 4-1put on a much better performance than England and scored what could prove to be crucial goals late in the group stage, meaning the Lions still have a lot of work to do.

Austria has no push and has players who can hurt you, but Norway would be a real step up.

The talk will be all about Ada Hegerberg, and we’ll talk about her in a minute, but I really don’t think there’s only one Norwegian player England have to worry about.

The way Chelsea’s Hegerberg, Caroline Graham Hansen and Guro Reiten performed against Northern Ireland was phenomenal. In fact, the entire left section is impressive, with Julie Blakstad and Hansen linking up brilliantly.

Ingrid Syrstad Engen will try to control the tempo of the game from central midfield like she does for Barcelona, ​​and while they have a lot of quality in the attacking areas, they look very strong in the middle. defense with Maria Thorisdottir and Maren Mjelde, players we know from Manchester United and Chelsea respectively.

Norway is just a very good team in all rounds.

How good is Hegerberg?

There is no doubt, however, that we must give special attention to Ada Hegerberg.

England defenders will have to keep an eye on her at all times, but the point is that she’s very good at getting past defenders’ shoulders to sneak a bit of space, especially from crosses as she’s so good at the ball. atmosphere.

It will always be a problem when she has Reiten and Hansen by her side providing quality crosses.

Hegerberg has been very unselfish against Northern Ireland, it can be a bit too selfish at times to consider her a No 9 – in a big league you need the first target to get you on your way.

Overall, her performance was excellent, however, the way she hovered between positions and caused herself a lot of trouble.

She will be a constant threat.

You just have to look at the fact she’s scored 59 goals in 60 Champions League games to know it. That’s a ridiculous indicator.

After returning from a severe injury, she seems to be back at her best and brimming with confidence as she won the Champions League and Champions League with Lyon last season.

Throw in the mix that she’s just returned from five years of self-imposed exile from international football and she’ll think it’s time to prove she’s the best player in the world again.

Too tight to call

England will have to defend well one-on-one because Norway has too many good individuals who can hurt you.

They will have to keep space between the backline and small midfield to compress space, which means we should see a game of cat and mouse.

England will want to attack and counter-attack, but they will be wary of the fact that they will need to return very quickly to neutralize the huge threat that Norway will pose across the pitch.

It was a really tough game to call, and one that led me to a 1-1 draw.

For Britain, that could depend on the impact of their game-changers. I’m delighted to see three young England players, Alessia Russo, Ella Toone and Chloe Kelly, having almost half an hour against Austria just to entice them and settle down a bit for the tournament.

That will get them really good for the rest of it.

Lauren Hemp showed a glimpse in the opening game, not for the full 90 minutes, and Beth Mead always seems to score key goals at key moments, so don’t object to her doing it. that again on Monday night.

I am sitting on the fence.

  • Kelly Smith will write the Women’s Life Finals column during the tournament, which runs from July 6-31.