A horrendous miss from Australia’s Sam Kerr set the tone for the Matildas’ penalty shootout against Norway, sending the Scandinavian nation into the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup with a 4-1 win on penalties.
From the start of regulation, Australia seemed a lot more composed than their Norwegian counterparts, consistently controlling the pace of play and throwing attack after attack at Norway’s defense. Yet even with that control, it was Norway that got on the board first thanks to a pinpoint accurate pass from Karina Saevik to Isabell Herlovsen.
The following 52 minutes of game time were made up almost entirely of Australian frustration. Time and time again, they made their way into Norwegian territory only to come up empty thanks to poor control in the box, timely defending from their opponents, or just flat-out deciding to shoot way too late. But the Matildas’ persistence eventually paid off when they scored off of a corner in the 83rd minute.
Alongside the trend of constant Australian pressure was a trend of occasional Norwegian breakaways that gave the Aussies problems as it broke the momentum they were trying to build. Norway almost got its second goal against the run of play two minutes into injury time when Caroline Graham Hansen tried to curl in a shot from outside of the box. The shot bounced off the far post and rolled just in front of the goal line before it was kicked out of harm’s way.
When extra time began it was almost as if a Freak Friday scenario went down when the two teams tried to regroup at the end of regulation. Norway, running off of the energy of the near-goal, started full throttle as Australia tried its best to keep up but ultimately switched to a “bend don’t break” defensive strategy. It worked for the most part, even though that thinking behind that game plan led to Alanna Kennedy earning an incredibly soft red card in the 104th minute, and outside of a few corners that made you hold your breath, nothing of note came out of those 30 minutes.
When over two hours of gameplay were unable to separate these two squads, the pressure of penalties commenced. It’s normally bad practice to determine the winner of a game after one penalty shot from each side, but if you decided to declare Australia dead after that first round of kicks, you would’ve been right on track with the end result.
Norway’s Caroline Graham Hansen finally got the goal she was looking for after a clinical penalty sent Australian keeper Lydia Williams the opposite way of her shot. Up next was Australia’s captain, Sam Kerr, who you’ve probably realized by now has been noticeably absent from this recap. Prior to her approach to the spot, she had not been playing up to the usual high standard many have come to expect from her—including Chelsea, who just offered her a $1 million deal. Unfortunately for the Matildas, nothing changed as far as that poor form was concerned and she skied her penalty with an attempt that looked more like a flail than a kick. The miss clearly broke the confidence of Kerr’s teammates and brought life to the Norwegians. Norway followed up that miss with three straight makes, while Australia offered one miss and one make.
Norway will go on to face the winner of Cameroon-England for a spot in the tournament’s semifinal.