It was a case of close but not quite as Scotland were defeated 2-1 by France in their tournament opener in front of a crowd of 1,285 at St. Mirren Park. A freak Sandy Baltimore goal on the hour mark gave the French side the lead but when substitute Emma Craig trundled a shot past Justine Lerond in the French goal with just nine minutes to go it looked like Scotland were on course for a well earned point.
However a minute into injury time the French snatched victory. The Scottish defence, who had been excellent throughout the game suffered a momentary lapse in concentration allowing Naomie Feller space in the area. The substitute taking the ball down before blasting home from fifteen yards past Sophie Allison. There will be a lot of positives to take from Scotland’s opening match but things won’t get any easier when they take on Norway this Friday night. We are back here at Leading the Line this time giving you everything you need to know about our second Group A opponents.
Norway have a long tradition in women’s football but have never claimed the U19 European Championship crown. They have however been four times runner up (2001, 2003, 2008 and 2011) but in their last trip to the final in 2011 they were comprehensively beaten 8-1 by a rampant Germany. In last year’s tournament held in Switzerland they again fell victims to the Germans, this time at the semi-final stage, but by a far more modest 2-0 scoreline.
Much like previous opponents France the Norwegians were seeded as hosts and drawn into Elite Round Group 5 along with Denmark, Ukraine and Northern Ireland with games played in Honefoss and Jessheim. A 2-1 victory over Northern Ireland was followed by a 7-1 win against Ukraine meaning that their final game against Scandinavian rivals Denmark would decide who would be making the trip to Scotland this summer. In the end it was a comfortable victory for the hosts as goals from Jenny Olsen, Olaug Tvedten and Malin Sunde ensured their progression.
The Head Coach & Style
Nils Lexerod took over as Norway U19 coach in 2014 after a season guiding Kvik Halden to 5th place in the Norwegian second tier and a spell as assistant coach at Tippeligaen Sarpsborg 08. His current role with the national side is perhaps his most high profile to date whether that be on the field or off it after a somewhat nomadic playing career around the lower leagues in Norway.
During the Elite Round qualification process, and in a group where the his side were favoured to progress, he deployed a 3-5-2 system something that he continued with in their opening game against the Dutch although the outcome against Jessica Torny’s side was very different from their qualifying triumphs.
Their Tournament So Far
Not great. Despite playing neat and tidy football they were made to pay for a number of defensive lapses, with goalkeeper Karen Sneve in particular having a game she may want to forget as the Netherlands would go on to complete a 5-0 victory. A scoreline that was maybe a touch harsh on Lexerod’s side.
One to Watch
Although she didn’t start against the Dutch striker Jenny Olsen was the star turn in qualifying scoring six goals, including four in the romp against the Ukraine, and the Lyn Oslo striker has scored at more than a goal a game since making her U19s debut. She came on as a second half substitute with her side four down but the expectation is that she will start against the Scots where a victory over the host nation will be seen as key to the Norwegians hopes of progression.
Last time they faced Scotland
It has been nearly five years since Scotland have faced Norway at this level with the sides drawing 0-0 in a European Championships qualifying tie hosted in Tirana, Albania. Whilst none of the players playing that day would be able to compete in 2019 World Cup goalscorer Lana Clelland did come on as a substitute whilst fellow squad member Lizzie Arnott started.
What are Scotland’s chances?
The heavy defeat that Norway suffered at the hands of the Dutch should not mask the fact that they are still a very strong side at this level as shown by their continual presence in the latter stages of the tournament. That said the defence did look vulnerable and if Scotland can put the same early pressure on as they did get against the French they may get some joy.
Scotland host Norway on Friday 19th July at Firhill Stadium. Kick off is at 6.15pm with admission priced at just £2 for adults and £1 for concessions. Leading the Line will be there to take in the action and will be back over the weekend to look ahead to Scotland’s next match against the Netherlands on Monday.
Remember you can follow the latest flights of fancy from Leading the Line on Twitter @MFPTasty.