Ada Hegerberg, The Missing Moments And Norway's Faltering World Cup

Norway are on the brink of their first World Cup group stage exit
15:00, 25 Jul 2023

Ahead of Norway’s 0-0 draw with Switzerland, Ada Hegerberg lined up for the national anthems. She was due to start the game, but once the anthems had finished, she walked down the tunnel, and was replaced by Sophie Román Haug in the starting XI.

There were rumours of illness, but it has now transpired that the former Ballon d’Or winner felt a slight strain in her groin ahead of kick-off, and didn’t want to risk a more serious injury.

Norway, ranked 12th in the world, toiled away in her absence and failed to find a goal for the second successive match at this tournament. Now they sit bottom of Group A knowing unless they beat the Philippines and the New Zealand v Switzerland result lands in their favour, they will exit at the group stage of a World Cup for the very first time.


Having been such a powerhouse in the 1990s, when they reached three consecutive finals, winning the biggest prize in football in 1995, this would represent a catastrophic failure and regression from one of the pivotal nations in the development of women’s football. Given they failed to get out of the groups at Euro 2022 after an embarrassing 8-0 hammering by England, this would mark a new low point for a squad that has more than enough individual talent. 

For Hegerberg herself, it would be a major disappointment given she is regarded as one of the finest players on the planet and missed the last edition of the World Cup during her dispute with the Norwegian Football Federation. Her five-year absence from the national team, over the treatment of women’s footballers in the country, lasted from 2017 until 2022, but she failed to make an impression at Euro 22, proving unable to find the net across three group games. 

She has scored at a World Cup before, three times in 2015, but this tournament could have been her chance to truly stamp her mark on the global stage. She’s scored 43 in 76 for her country, but only four of those goals have come at major tournaments. The 28-year-old is yet to have a really outstanding moment for her country, which seems bizarre given she produces for Lyon on such a regular basis. It still feels like her career is dotted with missing moments, perhaps due to the fact she took such an extended break from international football during her peak years. 


At club level, she has been a phenomenon. Arguably the greatest forward to have played the women’s game. 306 goals across 310 games in all competitions speaks of her sheer quality, and have contributed to a ridiculous six Champions League titles and eight Ligue 1 triumphs. But even her greatest individual moment was soured somewhat. Having scored 31 goals in 20 league matches for Lyon and won the league and Champions League double in 2018, Hegerberg was awarded the very first Ballon d’Or Feminin. 

It was a hugely prestigious honour that finally proved the recognition the women’s game was getting, and then it was thrown in her face on stage. French DJ Martin Solveig asked if she could twerk on stage following the trophy presentation and all of the apparent progress disappeared with one outrageous question. 

Perhaps injuries, and a lack of football over the past three years has signalled an end to her time at the very top - which is understandable given she started playing at 15. But there’s a tinge of sadness that she hasn’t completely blown us away on the world stage.

She’s had a phenomenal career, of that there is absolutely no doubt. But it seems another major tournament is going to pass us by without one of the world’s greatest making her mark. 

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