One of the traditional powerhouses in the women's game, Norway have claimed every major title going. Winners of the 1995 FIFA Women's World Cup in Sweden, they also secured Olympic gold at Sydney 2000 and are one of only three sides to have been crowned European champions, along with Germany and Sweden.
At the FIFA Women's World Cup USA 2003, a Norway side weakened by several withdrawals were eliminated by the hosts in the quarter-finals. The manner of their defeat on that occasion gave rise to domestic concerns that the team could lose their place among the world's top footballing nations unless they adapted their traditional long-ball game to a style more suited to the contemporary game. Norway's early exit from the tournament also meant they missed out on the chance to defend their Olympic title at the 2004 games in Athens.
However, those fears proved to be short-lived as Norway bounced back under new coach Bjarne Berntsen, reaching the final of UEFA EURO 2005 in England. Berntsen introduced a more flexible style of play, as well as rejuvenating the team with the likes of 16-year-old Isabell Herlovsen and Stine Frantzen from the U-19 team - two of the brightest newcomers to emerge at the European tournament.
Norway have quality in every department: the experienced Bente Nordby remains one of the best goalkeepers in the women's game, while in front of her the hard but fair Ana Stangeland can be guaranteed to keep a close eye on opposition strikers. The country's industrious playmaker Solveig Gulbrandsen will also be back for the finals in China, this after taking a year out in 2006 due to the birth of her first child. Madeleine Giske, Elise Thorsnes, Guro Knutsen and Melissa Wiik are four more Norwegian players to look out for in China. One area where there is definitely room for improvement is the team's inconsistency in front of goal, evidence of which was provided by their three games in the 2006 Algarve Cup, where they failed to find the net in their three preliminary matches.
The road to China was an untroubled one for Norway. The team won seven of their eight group games, with only a 1-1 draw in Ukraine preventing them from completing a clean sweep. They beat the Ukrainians 4-1 in the opening game of their campaign and followed that up with a 4-0 victory in Serbia.
A Lise Klaveness goal sealed a narrow 1-0 home win over Italy, after which Norway completed an easy double over Greece and beat Serbia once again.
With their draw in Ukraine, Norway became the first European side to qualify for China 2007, and they then wrapped up the group with a 2-1 win in Italy. The team's impressive goal difference - 22 for and only 3 against - means they will be confident of making their mark at the finals.
Bjarne Berntsen succeeded Age Steen as national team coach in December 2004. The appointment was something of a surprise, as Bernsten had no previous experience of coaching a women's team. However, that proved no hindrance to Norway's progress to the final of UEFA EURO 2005 and with a wealth of promising talent coming through the ranks, the coach has his sights set accordingly high for next year's showpiece event in China.
Berntsen played 33 times in defence for Norway in the late 70s and early 80s before embarking on a coaching career at Bryne IL, who he took to the league title in 1987.
In 1989, he became director of football at Viking Stavanger, the club he had served the longest as a player. He coached the team from 1993 to 1995 and returned to the club as administrative director in 1999. After a further short spell as coach in 2004, he was invited to take charge of the women's national team, a call-up that has proved an inspired choice thus far.
Previous Record at FIFA Women's World Cup Finals
|2||Ane STANGELAND HORPESTAD|
|19||Marit FIANE CHRISTENSEN|
|11||Leni LARSEN KAURIN|
|14||Guro KNUTSEN MIENNA|