The Northern Ireland women put up a valiant resistance on a historic night for Kenny Shiel’s side but were beaten 4-1 by Norway in the Euro 2022 opener at St Mary’s.
In their first game at a major tournament, the Northern Irish always faced a difficult task against a talented Norwegian side, but were shocked when a trio of first-half goals ended the game at half-time.
After left-back Julie Blakstad defeated Jackie Burns at her near post in the 10th minute, Norway struck again three minutes later as Northern Ireland tried to play from behind and Frida Maanum was brought down to an easy finish.
It was three after half an hour when Caroline Graham Hansen fired in from the penalty spot after a VAR review spotted a handball from Nadene Caldwell from a corner, and Northern Ireland gratefully acknowledged not being further behind at the break.
Returning to being a more confident and organized team, they gave each other hope with another historic moment when Rachel Furness saved a corner alive to cross Julie Nelson and nod home from close range.
The two sides briefly switched roles, with Northern Ireland pushing for more, but their faint hopes of a comeback were dashed when Chelsea’s Guro Riding fired home a 20-metre free-kick to secure a eminent win for Norway.
The “nervous” Northern Ireland find it difficult against top-class opponents
Northern Ireland and Norway were familiar ones after being drawn in the same qualifying group for the finals, with the Green-White Army coming from the wrong end in back-to-back 6-0 defeats in Belfast and Stavanger.
This, coupled with the new experience of reaching a major final, was enough to make Northern Ireland nervous in the first half in the face of such quality opponents, and despite registering plenty of possession, the home nation looked fragile with every loss of possession.
It was made too easy to bring about the change of game that led to Norway’s opening goal and messy when Ada Hagerberg robbed the Northern Ireland defense to set up the second.
It was only then that Shiels’ side began to get a handle on proceedings and would not concede a goal in open play for the remainder of the game.
His half-time message at 3-0 down would likely have focused on the second-half result rather than saving the game, but after Nelson’s header just after the break there was a brief moment where it looked like an unlikely one comeback in sight .
It didn’t materialize as Reit’s free-kick burst the Northern Ireland bubble again, but there are signs of optimism ahead of Monday’s second game against Austria, which Shiels and his side will see as a beatable opponent – if they can hold their second – half power over 90 minutes.
Norway and Northern Ireland are back in action on Monday. Norway meet England at the Amex Stadium (kick-off 8pm) while Northern Ireland meet Austria at St Mary’s (kick-off 5pm).
Group A ends on Friday 15th July. Northern Ireland meet tournament hosts England in Southampton, while Norway meet Austria at the Amex Stadium. Both games will kick off at 8 p.m.
Follow Euro 2022 on Sky Sports
Stay up to date on Euro 2022 this summer via Sky Sports and Sky Sports News.
The coverage will be moderated 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 provide analysis throughout the tournament.
They are also joined by veteran England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley and Manchester City defender Esme Morgan.
The experts and presenters will work from the Sky Sports Women’s Euro 2022 mobile presentation bus, which will follow the Sky Sports News team across the country to the various stadiums where matches will be played.
In addition, Sky Sports’ Essential Football Podcast will be rebranded to Sky Sports Women’s Euros Podcast for the tournament from 21 June. It will be moderated by Charlotte Marsh and Anton Toloui and will feature exclusive news and player interviews, as well as a strong program 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 6th
Group A: England 1-0 Austria
Thursday July 7th
Group A: Norway 4-1 Northern Ireland
Friday, July 8th
Group B: Spain vs Finland – kick-off 5pm, Stadion MK
Group B: Germany v Denmark – kick-off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Saturday July 9th
Group C: Portugal v Switzerland – kick-off 5pm, Leigh Sports Village
Group C: Netherlands v Sweden – kick-off 8pm, Bramall Lane
Sunday 10 July
Group D: Belgium v Iceland – kick-off 5pm, Manchester City Academy Stadium
Group D: France vs Italy – kick-off 8pm, New York Stadium
Monday 11 July
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 12th July
Group B: Denmark vs Finland – kick-off 5pm, Stadion MK
Group B: Germany v Spain – kick-off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Wednesday July 13th
Group C: Sweden vs Switzerland – kick-off 5pm, Bramall Lane
Group C: Netherlands v Portugal – kick-off 8pm, Leigh Sports Village
Thursday 14 July
Group D: Italy v Iceland – kick-off 5pm, Manchester City Academy Stadium
Group D: France v Belgium – kick-off 8pm, New York Stadium
Friday 15 July
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 16th
Group B: Finland vs. Germany – kick-off 8pm, Stadion MK
Group B: Denmark v Spain – kick-off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Sunday 17 July
Group C: Switzerland v Netherlands – kick-off 5pm, Bramall Lane
Group C: Sweden v Portugal – kick-off 5pm, Leigh Sports Village
Monday 18 July
Group D: Iceland vs France – kick-off 8pm, New York Stadium
Group D: Italy v Belgium – kick-off 8pm, Manchester City Academy Stadium
Wednesday July 20th
Quarter-Final 1: Winners Group A – Runners-up Group B – Kick-off 8pm, Brighton and Hove Community Stadium
Thursday 21st July
Quarter-final 2: Group B winners – Group A runners-up – Kick-off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Friday 22 July
Quarter-Finals 3: Group C winners – Group D runners-up – Kick-off 8pm, Leigh Sports Village
Quarter-Finals 4: Winners Group D – Runners-up Group C – Kick-off 8pm, New York Stadium
Tuesday, July 26th
Semi-Final 1: Quarter-Final 1 Winner vs. Quarter-Final 3 Winner – Kick-off 8pm, Bramall Lane
Wednesday July 27th
Semi-final 2: Winner of quarter-final 2 – Winner of quarter-final 4 – kick-off 8 p.m., Stadium MK
Sunday 31 July
Winner Semi-Final 1 v Winner Semi-Final 2 – Kick-off 5pm, Wembley