Women's Euro 2022 predictions: Norway to see off debutants Northern Ireland
England will get a chance to look at their Women's Euro 2022 Group A rivals tonight as Norway face Northern Ireland in Southampton.
The Norwegians have twice won this competition — in 1987 and 1993 — and have been runners-up a further four times.
While they no longer possess the prowess of yesteryear, Martin Sjogren's team are a solid unit with most of their star players dotted around Europe.
In contrast, this is a new experience for Northern Ireland. The Green and White Army are set to make their tournament debut and have struggled in the build-up, failing to win any of their last five outings.
The main news in the build-up to the tournament as far as Norway are concerned is the return to the fold of Ada Hegerberg, who ended her five-year international exile earlier this year.
Hegerberg netted a hat-trick on her return and the 2018 Ballon d'Or winner is likely to start in attack, where she will be aiming to improve on her international tally of 42 international goals from 70 caps.
Chelsea's Maren Mjelde is likely to captain the side from central defence, with Manchester United's Maria Thorisdottir set to be her partner at the back.
The presence of Hegerberg may prompt Northern Ireland boss Kenny Shiels to employ a back five in a bid to contain the 26-year-old and her colleagues.
Captain Marissa Callaghan is a doubt for Shiels' side and her absence could leave a big hole in midfield.
There is little comparison when it comes to the experience of the two nations in international footballing terms.
This will be Norway's 12th appearance at the Euros, with their sole absence being the inaugural tournament in 1984 when they failed to qualify.
Admittedly, they struggled in 2017, losing all three of their group stage matches amid rumours of disquiet over the conditions within the camp.
Norway had previously reached the semi-finals or better in the four tournaments before that and will have similar aspirations in England.
This experience will all be new for Northern Ireland and their date at St Mary's is undoubtedly a historic one for women's football in the country.
Shiels' side won three in a row at an aggregate score of 23-1 between November and February but a run of five without a victory since will have dented their confidence.
Norway have also won the last five meetings, most recently triumphing 6-0 in November 2019.
It is tough to see anything other than a Norway win tonight.
While their recent performances have hardly been stellar, Sjogren's team are on an upward curve and the return of Hegerberg has clearly boosted morale.
Northern Ireland's anticipated defensive tactics could make chances hard to come by.
The Scandinavians have won four of the previous meetings between the countries to nil and will hope to have a similarly comfortable evening.
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