Southampton, England – When Northern Ireland qualified for Euro 2022, they did so behind closed doors. The outbreak has been fueled by the fact that friends, family and fans can’t make history and qualify for their first big competition.
At the end of the second half of that qualifying match, when they won, a car horn sounded outside Windsor Park. In the quiet atmosphere of the fanless stadium, its quality was electric current. These fans tell the team that they are there and they are watching and they are ready to support them in any way.
And it was a remarkable achievement. There are 16 players in the qualifying team at home. In the team’s Euro debut on Thursday, the Northern Ireland Football Association held an in-depth professional training camp for all players playing in the amateur setup. Except for professional clubs, anyone on the team had access to physiotherapy, chrysopa therapy and psychology sessions.
“We had amateur players going to work in the hospital’s supermarket,” coach Kenny Schills said after qualifying. “Most of our team is made up of that, and I mean, when you look at it from that perspective, it makes success ridiculous.”
Having already done the impossible, the team wanted to make it clear that it was not just to increase the numbers in the tournament and did so against Norway on Thursday. They lost 4-1 to a very clever Norwegian team, but the debutants struggled after a tough start and proved why they reached the first major tournament in the team’s history.
The Norwegian side of Martin Szogren is full of international talent. For many, the main thing of the night is to return to the big tournament after Ada Hagerberg refused to compete on her national side. In some ways, he allowed Northern Ireland to leave quietly because his focus was on their star-studded opposition. Emphasize that Northern Ireland and Norway were in the same qualifying group where Norway beat them 6-0 both times and there was little hope for the Shields tonight.
Norway clarified the difference between the two sides by scoring two goals in a row in the opening 13 minutes, a light performance to defend Northern Ireland, who did not cover themselves with pride. Julie Blackstead hit a low shot under Jackie Burns’ foot before Frida Mannman doubled the lead in the 13th minute, and Burns gave Chloe McCarron a short pass that allowed Manman to pick up the ball and then Hagerberg to go ahead. One, empty nets were found.
It looked like the game was scripted and Norway would continue to score easily – but Northern Ireland showed their patience once again early in the second half. She won the first corner of the game and as the ball spun around the box, Rachel Furness hit a shot that went over the head of the undefeated Julie Nelson and she turned it into the net. Northern Ireland fans – who were loud enough for their credit even before the game started – erupted when the players celebrated on the pitch.
He may have scored just one goal, especially in a close match, but it was a big moment for Northern Ireland. His scorer Nelson has been with the team for 18 years, having made his debut in 2004. He has 125 caps to his name and most of them he is an amateur player. She works with the Irish FA on their development program, which promotes the next generation. Not only did she score a historic goal for the country, but she became the oldest player to score in a tournament in 37 years and 33 days.
It was ironic that all eyes were on Nelson this time, including Hegerberg on the pitch. When Hagerberg left the team in 2017, he dropped out of the Eurogroup stage for the second time in his history. He played 270 minutes without a goal or score. Not only did this frustration force him to walk away, but he also had big problems with how his football union treated his women. With a dramatic comeback and seeing something coming, she stayed away until this year.
She announced her return with a hat-trick in her first match in March and looked set to do the same tonight. Even if his first hat-trick came back to fairy tales, doing it in a big world tournament would have been the right way to continue his story with Norway. Even in the very early moments, he served the players around him.
Hagerberg helped for Manum’s goal and while she was taking her shots, she also seemed happy to shed light on her teammates. When Norway was awarded a penalty, it was Caroline Graham Hansen, not Hagerberg, who stepped in.
Hagerberg later found the net but it went offside and he knew something was on his shoulder that his night was not going to happen. The match against England may have gone to Norway’s head that they did not take good advantage of the Northern Ireland team present to raise a large amount of money.
Norway had 65% control of the entire match and Northern Ireland had 21 shots compared to just four. The goals they set were bad – Nelson was completely unmarked – and it was easy to imagine that a good team like England would shine on those opportunities.
Sjogren said, “I am very happy that we scored four runs honestly. I’m more disappointed that we missed the target. If you watch the game play, I am very happy in the first half. Play. “I think we could have scored more goals in the first 45 minutes.
“In the second half, I think Northern Ireland took a step back and we slipped into the build-up, especially before the goal on the corner. If you do this too many times at this level, you will be punished. But we came back. “
Norway has faced some of its ghosts since 2017 but one historic night, Northern Ireland lit up and gave us something to talk about. An injury to their star striker Simon Maggill could have given him more success in the tournament – but he showed it. Hagerberg and Norway will have to wait a few more days for their time to shine, but they have the talent to know it’s coming.