Norway Coach: Nadeshiko Will Be Tough to KO

AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
Japan’s Hinata Miyazawa celebrates with coaches after Norways scored the opening own goal during the Women’s World Cup second round soccer match between Japan and Norway in Wellington, New Zealand, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023.

WELLINGTON (AFP-Jiji) — Norway coach Hege Riise said Japan will be hard to beat at the Women’s World Cup after the 2011 champions powered into the quarterfinals on Saturday with a 3-1 win.

Japan, which might face defending champion the United States or Sweden in the last eight, outplayed Norway in Wellington. An own goal by Ingrid Syrstad Engen gave Japan an early lead in the last-16 clash.

Norway hit back with a Guro Reiten header, but Japan marched into the next round with second-half goals by Risa Shimizu and Hinata Miyazawa.

The 23-year-old Miyazawa bagged her fifth goal of the World Cup to become the tournament’s top scorer.

Riise was full of praise for Japan’s tiki-taka style — using fast, short passes to open up the opposition.

“They are a great team with a lot of good players and tactics,” said the Norway boss, whose side has never looked like repeating its 1995 title success.

“The combination of tiki-taka with direct play is hard to defend.”

Even deploying five defenders, Riise said Norway struggled to cope.

The defense was “a little bit shaky in the first few minutes, after that we kind of settled. But Japan is a great side,” she said.

“Credit to Japan — how they played and how they broke us down. Even with the plan we had, we were solid in defense at times, but not quite good enough.”

Japan controlled possession for long stretches, forcing Norway’s Barcelona star Caroline Graham Hansen to spend more time in defense than attack.

Norway played with two strikers for the final quarter when 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg, who has had a groin injury, came on to partner Sophie Roman Haug up front.

They had chances at the death, but when they belatedly threatened they found goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita impossible to beat a second time.

“I think they showed maybe why they have been the best team, so far, today,” Graham Hansen told reporters.