Twenty-six years ago today, Norway made history by winning the second edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Hege Riise, now coach of the British women’s football team, was the recipient of the tournament’s Golden Ball.
Riise will be leading Team GB at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games this summer. She was appointed to the role in March, having already spent several months as the interim manager of England.
Before she embarked on a coaching career, Riise was a formidable midfielder for club and country. The 51-year-old won it all, including the 1993 Euros and an Olympic gold medal at Sydney 2000.
But it was on the global stage in 1995 that Riise really made a mark. She was the standout performer in Norway’s journey to World Cup glory.
Sweden played host to the second edition of the Women’s World Cup. The tournament, remembered as having a “typically Swedish festive mid-summer atmosphere”, featured 12 of the best teams on the planet.
The hosts were joined by defending champions United States, Canada, Nigeria, China, Japan, Brazil and Australia. Denmark, England, Norway and Germany completed the European contingent. Teams were drawn into three groups of four, with eight sides progressing to the knockout stage.
Solna, Gävle, Helsingborg, Karlstad, Västeras were carefully selected to play host to matches. Their mid-sized population centres maximised crowd sizes at stadiums, resulting in an average of 4,316 at each game. More than 17,000 fans attended the final between Norway and Germany.
Dominant Norway scoring for fun
Norway were drawn into Group B with England, Canada and Nigeria. The team were rampant, thrashing Nigeria 8-0 in their opening game. A 2-0 victory against England followed, before a 7-0 rout against Canada concluded a very successful group stage. Norway had scored 17 goals and conceded none.
Next up for the Norwegians was a tricky quarter-final clash against Denmark. They defeated their Scandinavian neighbours 3-1, setting up a semi-final tie against the US.
The American team had been favourites to win the tournament but suffered a setback in the opening match, losing star striker Michelle Akers to injury. Perhaps Akers would have changed the outcome of the World Cup semi-final, but in her absence, Norway triumphed 1-0.
Now, just Germany stood between Norway and World Cup glory. Råsunda Stadium hosted the final between the two teams on 18th June 1995, with Norway eventually running out 2-0 winners.
Hege Riise star of the show
Riise was a pivotal player for Norway during the 1995 World Cup. The attacking midfielder scored against Nigeria, England and Canada in the group stage, before hitting the back of the net in the quarter-final victory against Denmark.
Riise failed to score in the semi-finals but was back on target in the final. Her goal, Norway’s opener, is still remembered as one of the best scored in a World Cup final.
As a result of her goal-scoring efforts during the tournament, Riise received the Golden Ball and Silver Boot accolades. The star had established herself as one of the best female footballers around, a status that was reinforced after the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Riise, named the best Norweigan footballer of all time in 2003, retired in 2006. She is still one of only three female players to win the World Cup, the European Championship and Olympic gold.
Team GB will be hoping Riise’s winning ways will continue in Tokyo this summer.News Now - Sport News