Women’s World Cup quarterfinal: Lionesses ready to roar against Norway for last-four spot

Norway last faced England in a World Cup clash in the knockouts of the 2015 edition, wherein the Lionesses came from behind to win 2-1. Norway could thus be seeking revenge in this last-eight face-off.

Women’s World Cup quarterfinal: Lionesses ready to roar against Norway for last-four spot

After getting the better of Cameroon in a dramatic clash in Valenciennes, England will face Norway in the quarterfinal on Thursday at Stade Oceane in Le Havre.

The Lionesses emerged victorious in their round of 16 fixture against Cameroon, which was marred by controversies - right from the Cameroonians showing lack of discipline on the field after a couple of VAR decisions didn’t go their way - to the alleged spitting incident on Toni Duggan.

However, apart from the drama that unfolded, England was also affected by an injury scare as captain Steph Houghton remains doubtful for the clash against the Norwegians. Now struggling with an ankle issue, Houghton was on the receiving end of a nasty tackle by Cameroon’s Alexandra Takounda in the ill-tempered face-off.

Joining Houghton on the probable list of absentees is another centre-back Millie Bright, who is down with a virus.

Coach Phil Neville is likely to turn to Abbie McManus and Leah Williamson at the heart of his defence, if Houghton and Bright are unavailable for selection.

While England’s defence now remains a concern following the two doubtful inclusions, the attack seems far better. Ellen White, Alex Greenwood and Steph Houghton scored a goal each in their last fixture - White registered her fourth goal of the tournament against Cameroon, becoming England’s joint-top scorer in a single tournament in the competition (also Kelly Smith with four in 2007). White will be a threat for Norway’s defence, which has conceded in every match since its 3-0 win against Nigeria.

Gresshoppene - as the Norway side is known - needed a late equaliser from Elise Kellond-Knight against Australia in the knockouts to force extra-time and win the match 4-1 on penalties. Sam Kerr’s penalty miss proved costly for the Matildas as Norway progressed further. Isabell Herlosven featured on the scoresheet for Norway as she scored her sixth World Cup goal, her strike against Australia being her second in the knockout stage.

Head-to-Head : England vs Norway   -  Graphic News

 

Apart from Herlosven, Caroline Graham Hansen too grabbed attention as she kept Australia on its toes with her attacking prowess. She registered 11 shots for Norway and also opened the account in the penalty shootout. Neville’s defence could thus be put to test by these two players.

Norway last met England in a World Cup match in the 2015 edition in the round of 16 match in Ottawa where Lucy Bronze’s late goal sealed England’s progression into the quarterfinal with a 2-1 win. Norway will, however, take heart from the sides’ previous meeting in 2017 where it beat the Lionesses 1-0 in a friendly.

While England is considered one of the title favourites this year, Norway possesses a better record at the World Cup. Norway has progressed four times from its last five quarterfinals - in 1991, 1995, 1999 and 2007 - losing only in 2003 against the USA. England, on the other hand, has progressed only once from the last-eight, beating Canada 2-1 in the previous edition of the  World Cup.

But with England having won five consecutive games for the first time at the World Cup, an exciting challenge awaits Norway.

The winner of this match will fight either USA or France in the semifinal on July 2 at Parc Olympique Lyonnais.