Mjelde: I learned from my older brother

Delivering a good free-kick is one of football’s greatest skills, mastered perfectly only by a select few – and those who can count themselves among this elite are remembered by fans forever. Most can easily call to mind David Beckham’s talent in this area or Roberto Carlos’s legendary strike against France, which moved away from goal before swerving drastically back towards it. Since last Thursday, Norway’s Maren Mjelde can also consider herself part of this exclusive club.

The 25-year-old produced a masterpiece in the group match against Germany at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™. The ball was in a central position just outside the penalty area, but between Mjelde and the goal stood a seven-woman wall and former FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Nadine Angerer. She took a three-step run-up and lifted an ingenious shot under the crossbar and into the net, with the Germany goalkeeper powerless to do anything other than watch the ball go by.

This magnificent strike levelled the scores for the Scandinavians at 1-1 in the 61st minute, with Google searches for the Norwegian’s name yielding countless videos with titles such as “Mjelde’s stunning free-kick against Germany” by the time the final whistle blew. Understandably, the goalscorer herself was absolutely thrilled and almost speechless when FIFA.com caught up with her after the game. “I had some images of it in my head, but I can’t remember it completely,” she explained. “I’ll definitely have to watch a couple of videos of it, but I know it was really powerful.”

Impressing her opponents The clearest sign that a player has achieved something exceptional on a football pitch is when their opponents praise them as highly as their team-mates. “She struck it very well. I couldn’t do anything about it, so it didn’t make sense to move; it would have been a waste of energy,” an impressed Angerer told FIFA.com. “That was a once-in-a-season free-kick,” added Germany striker Alexandra Popp.

Mjelde attributes her goal to hours of hard graft rather than luck. “I work on free-kicks a lot,” the defender explained. “I’ve taken plenty of them in the last few months and practise all the time – and now it’s paid off.”

She cites her older brother Erik, who plays for top-flight Norwegian side Sandefjord, as another factor in her success, with a powerful left foot and extensive experience in scoring directly from free-kicks. “I’ve learned quite a bit from him,” she explained, before adding with a smile: “I think he’ll have left some messages on my phone.” Those messages will have been more positive than after Norway’s first game against Thailand, when Mjelde’s spot-kick was saved by the goalkeeper.

Focused from the outset “That penalty really annoyed me,” she said. “It was such a poor shot, so I promised myself that I’d score today if I got the chance.” Her miss against the Asian side was less critical as Norway already held a clear lead helped by another direct free-kick, this time taken by captain Trine Ronning, who was on the bench against Germany after sustaining an injury in the first match.

With all these dead-ball specialists in the team, who does Mjelde believe is the best? “We’ve got a few players who can take good free-kicks. Trine is really powerful but above all she’s consistent and has scored plenty of goals.”

Goals will likely be the order of the day for Norway when they meet Côte d’Ivoire in their final group match on Monday 15 June, after the tournament debutants suffered a 10-0 thrashing by Germany in their first-ever Women’s World Cup game. A similar result looks likely for the Scandinavians after their draw with Silvia Neid’s side.

“Yeah it could happen, but to do that we need to play as well as we did ,” the Kopparbergs/Goteborg defender said confidently, adding that her team would need to take the match extremely seriously and focus fully from the outset to create enough goalscoring opportunities.

If the Norwegians miss too many of those chances, they might end up hoping for another stroke of genius from Maren Mjelde.