Norway
© Getty Images

The past
Regulars at Olympic Football Tournaments and the FIFA Women’s World Cup™, which they won in 1995, Norway have nevertheless made little impact at youth level. Their only FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup appearance to date came at Chile 2008, where they were unable to fight their way out of a tough group containing Brazil and Korea DPR. All the same, that experience proved useful for a clutch of players, among them the gifted Isabell Herlovsen, who were on duty for the full national side at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011.

The present
Anxious for its youth sides to improve their record, the Norwegian FA devoted its energies to development. This policy certainly brought dividends at the 2011 UEFA European Women’s Under-19 Championship in Italy, where the Scandinavians impressed on their way to the final. Though beaten heavily by Germany in the showpiece match, Norway played some sparkling football, thanks in no small part to striker Melissa Bjanesoy, who finished the tournament as top scorer.

The future
Appointed to the job in 2008, coach Jarl Torske is hoping for an improvement on his first appearance in the competition in Chile that same year. If his charges show the same on-field cohesion and off-pitch spirit in Japan as they did in last year’s European finals, then that goal will be well within his grasp.

“There’s an incredible atmosphere in the camp,” said Torske before his side took the runners-up slot in Italy. “The girls are bursting with energy and they’re full of confidence after some good performances. Whatever happens, I’ll be proud of what we’ve achieved.” His task now is to ensure they carry that momentum forward to Japan.

Facts and figures
Former stars
Isabell Herlovsen, Maren Mjelde, Marita Skammelsrud Lund

Key players
Maria Thorisdottir, Melissa Bjanesoy, Kristine Wigdahl Hegland

The road to Japan
Defeated 3-1 by Germany in their opening group match at last year’s European Championship, the Norwegians recovered with a 3-0 win over the Netherlands before crushing Spain 5-0. Their next victims were hosts Italy in the semis, Norway triumphing 3-2 to set up with a repeat meeting with the Germans in the final. Sadly for the Scandinavians, they had no answer to their opponents’ power and precision and went down 8-1.

The stat
7 - The number of goals scored by Melissa Bjanesoy in the qualifying tournament, with the forward managing to find the back of the net in every game.