Northern Ireland Women put up a brave resistance on a historic night for Kenny Shiels’ side but were well beaten 4-1 by Norway in their Euro 2022 opener at St Mary’s.
In their first game at a major tournament, Northern Ireland always faced an uphill task against a talented Norway side but were left shellshocked when a trio of first-half goals put the game beyond them by half-time.
After left-back Julie Blakstad beat Jackie Burns at her near post in the 10th minute, Norway pounced again three minutes later when Northern Ireland attempted to play out from the back, and Frida Maanum was teed up for a simple finish.
It was three on the half-hour mark when Caroline Graham Hansen fired in from the penalty spot after a VAR review spotted a Nadene Caldwell handball from a corner, and Northern Ireland went in at the break grateful not to be further behind.
They re-emerged a more confident and organized team and gave themselves hope with another moment of history, as Rachel Furness kept a corner alive to cross for Julie Nelson to nod home from close range.
The two sides briefly swapped roles with Northern Ireland pushing for more, but their tentative hopes of a comeback were quashed when Chelsea’s Guro Reiten fired home a 20-yard free-kick to ensure an emphatic Norway victory.
‘Nervous’ Northern Ireland find life tough against quality opposition
Northern Ireland and Norway were familiar with one another after they were drawn in the same qualifying group for the finals tournament, with the Green and White Army on the wrong end of two 6-0 defeats when they met in Belfast and Stavanger.
That, coupled with the new experience of reaching a major finals was enough to leave Northern Ireland nervous against such quality opposition in the opening half, and despite registering plenty of possession the home nation looked fragile whenever they lost the ball.
It was made too easy to produce the switch of play which led to Norway’s opener and chaotic as Ada Hagerberg robbed the Northern Ireland defense to set up the second.
Only then did Shiels’ side start to get a hold on proceedings, and would not concede a goal in open play for the rest of the game.
His half-time message at 3-0 down would have likely focused on the second-half scoreline rather than rescuing the match, but after Nelson’s header shortly after the interval there was a brief moment where it seemed an unlikely comeback could be on the cards .
It did not materialize, with Reiten’s free-kick bursting the Northern Ireland bubble again, but there are signs of optimism to take into Monday’s second game against Austria, who Shiels and his team will view as beatable opposition – if they can keep up their second -half performance across 90 minutes.
Norway and Northern Ireland are back in action on Monday. Norway will face England at the Amex Stadium (kick-off 8pm) while Northern Ireland take on Austria at St Mary’s (kick-off 5pm).
Group A will conclude on Friday July 15. Northern Ireland will face tournament hosts England in Southampton with Norway playing Austria at the Amex Stadium. Both games will kick off at 8pm.
Follow Euro 2022 across Sky Sports
Keep up with all the latest from Euro 2022 across Sky Sports and Sky Sports News this summer.
Coverage will be anchored by Sky Sports WSL presenter Caroline Barker, alongside Jessica Creighton and Kyle Walker. Meanwhile, Karen Carney, Sue Smith, Courtney Sweetman-Kirk and Laura Bassett will give analysis throughout the tournament.
They will also be joined by experienced England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley and Manchester City defender Esme Morgan.
The pundits and presenters will work from the Sky Sports Women’s Euro 2022 Mobile Presentation Bus, which will follow the Sky Sports News team around the country to the various stadiums where matches are being played.
In addition, Sky Sports’ Essential Football Podcast will be rebranded for the tournament to Sky Sports Women’s Euros Podcast from 21 June. Hosted by Charlotte Marsh and Anton Toloui, it will feature exclusive news and player interviews in addition to a strong program line up around the tournament.
Euro 2022: The groups…
Group A: England, Austria, Norway, Northern Ireland
Group B: Germany, Denmark, Spain, Finland
Group C: Netherlands, Sweden, Portugal, Switzerland
Group D: France, Italy, Belgium, Iceland
Euro 2022: The schedule…
Wednesday July 6
Group A: England 1-0 Austria
Thursday July 7
Group A: Norway 4-1 Northern Ireland
Friday July 8
Group B: Spain vs Finland – kick off 5pm, Stadium MK
Group B: Germany vs Denmark – kick off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Saturday July 9
Group C: Portugal vs Switzerland – kick off 5pm, Leigh Sports Village
Group C: Netherlands vs Sweden – kick off 8pm, Bramall Lane
Sunday July 10
Group D: Belgium vs Iceland – kick off 5pm, Manchester City Academy Stadium
Group D: France vs Italy – kick off 8pm, New York Stadium
Monday July 11
Group A: Austria vs Northern Ireland – kick off 5pm, St Mary’s
Group A: England v Norway – kick off 8pm, Brighton and Hove Community Stadium
Tuesday July 12
Group B: Denmark vs Finland – kick off 5pm, Stadium MK
Group B: Germany vs Spain – kick off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Wednesday July 13
Group C: Sweden vs Switzerland – kick off 5pm, Bramall Lane
Group C: Netherlands v Portugal – kick off 8pm, Leigh Sports Village
Thursday July 14
Group D: Italy vs Iceland – kick off 5pm, Manchester City Academy Stadium
Group D: France vs Belgium – kick off 8pm, New York Stadium
Friday July 15
Group A: Northern Ireland v England – kick off 8pm, St Mary’s
Group A: Austria vs Norway – kick off 8pm, Brighton and Hove Community Stadium
Saturday July 16
Group B: Finland vs Germany – kick off 8pm, Stadium MK
Group B: Denmark vs Spain – kick off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Sunday July 17
Group C: Switzerland vs Netherlands – kick off 5pm, Bramall Lane
Group C: Sweden vs Portugal – kick off 5pm, Leigh Sports Village
Monday July 18
Group D: Iceland vs France – kick off 8pm, New York Stadium
Group D: Italy vs Belgium – kick off 8pm, Manchester City Academy Stadium
Wednesday July 20
Quarter-final 1: Winners Group A v Runners-up Group B – kick off 8pm, Brighton and Hove Community Stadium
Thursday July 21
Quarter-final 2: Winners Group B v Runners-up Group A – kick off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Friday July 22
Quarter-final 3: Winners Group C v Runners-up Group D – kick off 8pm, Leigh Sports Village
Quarter-final 4: Winners Group D v Runners-up Group C – kick off 8pm, New York Stadium
Tuesday July 26
Semi-final 1: Winners quarter-final 1 v Winners quarter-final 3 – kick off 8pm, Bramall Lane
Wednesday July 27
Semi-final 2: Winners quarter-final 2 v Winners quarter-final 4 – kick-off 8pm, Stadium MK
Sunday July 31
Winners semi-final 1 v Winners semi-final 2 – kick off 5pm, Wembley