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Ada Hegerberg’s World Cup goes from bad to worse | Football News

In six days, the FIFA Women’s World Cup has seen a string of firsts. It is already the most attended in the competition’s 32-year history with over 1.5 million tickets sold. On Tuesday against Colombia, South Korea’s Casey Phair became the World Cup’s youngest-ever player at 16 years and 26 days. Linda Caicedo, 18, scored in Colombia’s 2-0 win which meant that in 11 months she had found the net in finals of the under-17, under-20 and the senior World Cup.

Norway's Ada Hegerberg reacts after missing a scoring chance during the FIFA Women's World Cup match against New Zealand(AP)
Norway’s Ada Hegerberg reacts after missing a scoring chance during the FIFA Women’s World Cup match against New Zealand(AP)

Within hours, Philippines became the first of the eight debutants to notch up a win, beating co-hosts New Zealand 1-0 through Sarina Bolden’s stunning header. And on Tuesday, the tournament got its first hattrick, from Ary Borges who became the first Brazilian male or female to score thrice on World Cup debut.

What the tournament has not had, barring Germany’s Alexandra Popp’s brace against Morocco, is star forwards living up to their reputation. Canada’s Christine Sinclair, who has 190 international goals, the most by a man or woman, missed a penalty as did twice World Cup winner Alex Morgan of the USA. The saved spot-kick against Vietnam was Morgan’s first in regulation time in a World Cup finals match. Talismanic Australian Sam Kerr is yet to start because of injury. And this could be another major competition Olympic Lyon and Norway star Ada Hegerberg, 28, would like to forget.

The centre-forward was named in the starting list against Switzerland and was on the pitch during the national anthems on a wet Tuesday night in Hamilton but was seen walking away before kick-off. “National team doctor Trygve Hunemo says that Ada Hegerberg felt a sensation in her groin during the last sprint during the warm-up,” team press officer Halvor Lea said in a text message, reported Reuters. “I did not want to take the chance,” said Hegerberg.

Hegerberg has had her share of injuries including an anterior cruciate ligament rupture in 2020 and stress fracture on her left tibia the same year. It kept her out of football for almost 20 months. Leg injuries kept her out for weeks last season too.

Against Switzerland, she returned to the bench in the second half wrapped in winter wear and was part of the post-game huddle after the 0-0 draw left Norway – world champions in 1995, runners-up in 1991 and Olympic gold medallists in 2000 – at the bottom of the group with one point from two games.

Without a win in their last six games and without a goal in their last four at major competitions, Norway must beat Philippines on Sunday but even that may not be enough to stay in the World Cup.

It was not Hegerberg but New Zealand striker Hannah Wilkinson who stole the show in Norway’s opening game. The 1-0 win was New Zealand first in 16 World Cup games in over three decades.

Winner of the first Ballon d’Or Feminin in 2018, Hegerberg comes from a family of footballers. Sister Andrine is a midfielder who has represented Norway 25 times and parents Stein Hegerberg and Gerd Stolsmo too played at the top level. Husband Thomas Rogne is a Norwegian central defender.

Exactly what Hegerberg means to Norway can be gauged from her numbers for club and country. She has 43 goals in 76 internationals. For Lyon, she has 243 goals in 219 appearances including 59 in 62 games of the Champions League, a competition she has won six times and is the all-time top-scorer. In the 2019 Champions League final against Barcelona, Hegerberg got a hattrick in the first 30 minutes.

When the 2019 World Cup began weeks later, Hegerberg was not part of it. It had been that way since 2017 when Hegerberg had stepped away because she felt the Norwegian federation did not give women’s football its due. She returned in April 2022 because of the faith she has in federation president Lise Klaveness.

In her first game, against Kosovo, on return Hegerberg scored a hattrick. As she did in a pre-Euro friendly against New Zealand, the first goal a spectacular right-footer after turning inside the penalty area.

But the Euros were an underwhelming experience. Norway lost 0-8 to England in the group league and exited after a 0-1 defeat to Austria. Hegerberg didn’t score. She is still looking for her first goal at a major since the 2015 World Cup. “We lack the last bit to get the goals we need,” said Hegerberg on Tuesday.

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