Norway arrived at the Women’s World Cup widely regarded as favourites to win their group and tipped to go deep into the tournament.
Two games into the tournament and their ambitions are unravelling.
Not only do Norway, World Cup winners in 1995, sit bottom of Group A and face an early exit, but cracks appear to be emerging inside Hege Riise’s camp.
Winger Caroline Graham Hansen, one of the stars of the team, made her feelings clear after being left out of the starting line-up for Tuesday’s goalless draw with Switzerland in Hamilton.
“I feel like I’ve been stepped on for a year. I have not been shown respect,” she told Viaplay after the match.
Speaking to Norwegian television, the two-time Champions League winner with Barcelona added: “It goes without saying that you get frustrated. You get angry and you get sad.
“I do not know what to say. It’s been a tough few days.”
Riise, the former England interim manager who took charge of Norway last August after their poor showing at Euro 2022, was asked about Hansen’s comments in her news conference.
“I made an assessment of what we have been working on for a long time, ever since we arrived,” she said of her decision to leave out one of her most talented players following the shock 1-0 defeat by co-hosts New Zealand in the opening match of the tournament.
“These are things we will handle internally. There is a lot of frustration that didn’t win. Caroline is entitled to be frustrated and entitled to express her option.
“Since I arrived in this position, I have always stated that the team is most important thing.”
‘Issues to sort out’
Speaking before the draw with Switzerland, former England keeper Rachel Brown-Finnis said she had heard “rumblings” from inside the Norway camp of “differences of opinion”.
She said there was disquiet about their style of play and “no joined-up thinking”.
“They clearly have some issues to sort out,” said Brown-Finnis.
While Norway showed more attacking threat against Switzerland, they have now failed to score in 180 minutes in New Zealand.
With one point from two games, their final group game is against World Cup debutants the Philippines in Auckland on Sunday (08:00 BST).
The Philippines have three points after Tuesday’s 1-0 win over New Zealand, who also have three, while Switzerland sit top of the group on four.
Ada Hegerberg won the inaugural Women’s Ballon d’Or award in 2018
Will Hegerberg play in final must-win group game?
To add to Norway’s woes, striker Ada Hegerberg picked up a groin injury while warming up and did not play against Switzerland.
The six-time Champions League winner lined up for the national anthems but was seen walking down the tunnel moments before kick-off.
“It did not feel normal,” Hegerberg said. “I did not want to take the chance. I wish I could have contributed.
“But I see the girls are working hard. We lack the last bit to get the goals we need. We need to gather ourselves again.”
With 43 goals in 76 games, Hegerberg is a highly valued member of Norway’s team, but Riise was unable to provide an update on her injury and availability.
“I didn’t know what happened,” said Riise. “I haven’t spoken to her or the medical team yet so I am not in a position to say anything.”