Nothing brings a team together like winning, and Norway have received consecutive injections of team unity after impressive wins over the USA and New Zealand that have the Norwegians sitting comfortably atop Group G. The players that make up this Scandinavian side, however, are far from fair-weather friends as team chemistry and collective effort have long been their hallmarks.
“The friendly, family atmosphere is the key to our success,” midfielder Marie Knutsen told FIFA.com. “When you are staying so long together, it’s very important that you have a good time outside of the pitch. We enjoy playing together and being together and I think those close bonds do help the team to be successful at tournaments like this one.”
Those close bonds are obvious even to the casual observer. Players’ children are often seen running about and playing with squad members in the team’s hotel in Qinhuangdao, where the team spend a great deal of time together. “We want to carry on being energetic and working together as a team,” said Marie Knutsen, whose sister Guro is also in the squad. “We may not have the greatest individuals, but we have a really strong team spirit and we always work together for each other.”
Putting the shine on
The spectators on hand for Norway’s 1-0 victory over New Zealand enjoyed a glimpse of the team’s camaraderie during Melissa Wiik’s goal celebration in which she pretended to clean the boots of Leni Larsen Kaurin, whose precision cross set up the goal. “The goal celebration is a bit of fun,” Marie Knutsen said. “Leni and Melissa played together for many years in Asker in western Norway, so they know each other very well, so there is a good connection between them.”
The importance of team unity is not lost on coach Bjarne Bertnsen, who notes how the energy transfers over to the training ground: “They want to improve with every single training session and there’s a great atmosphere in the squad, a great togetherness, a great sense of humour and I think that it’s one of the best thing about our team.”
Marie Knutsen believes that the team’s positive energy can make up for what the squad lacks in experience. “When I was in the squad at the European Championships in England back in 2005, I was 22 and everything was new and a little bit scary, but we’ve always had a good squad and we like to be together,” she said.
“Maybe we’re a bit younger, and lacking a bit of experience but we’ve got the enthusiasm to put things right.”