Norway made a losing start to their FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Japan 2012 campaign with a 4-2 defeat by Korea DPR. But despite this early setback, the Scandinavians have no intention of wallowing in their disappointment or dwelling on the negatives.

Forward Ada Hegerberg was the smiling embodiment of this positive approach when she spoke with to reflect on her side’s opening loss. “In spite of everything, it was a good match, but we were simply up against a team that was better than us,” she said. “But all is not lost, and we knew that the hardest match of this tournament would be the opener against the best team in the group, and one of the favourites to go all the way.”

For the time being at least, lifting the trophy is not Hegerberg's main objective. However, she does know that her side has the ability to improve, starting against Canada and Argentina. “We matched them [Korea DPR] for more than an hour and twice levelled the score,” she said. “That shows that we have certain qualities, and if we manage to exploit them to the full, we’ll hopefully finish our next games with more points.”

Chief among those qualities is Hegerberg herself. The forward has a good touch, as demonstrated by her deft lay-off into the path of Caroline Hansen, who burst through to level the score at 1-1. And her predatory instinct allowed her to pounce on some poor control by the North Korean goalkeeper to score Norway’s second goal. “I was so happy that I didn’t know whether to scream or start crying,” the 17-year-old said of the goal that made it 2-2. “At that moment, we really thought we could win the match.”

A family affair 
The victory did not materialise, but not even defeat could not diminish Hegerberg’s joy at seeing her name on the scoreboard at a world finals. “To score a goal at a World Cup is an extraordinary thing, and one that all forwards dream of,” said the long-time fan of Arsenal and their former striker Thierry Henry. “It’s what I train for every day.”

For Hegerberg, training is clearly a byword for hard work. But it is also a source of enjoyment, particularly as she gets to train and play competitive matches alongside her older sister, Andrine, with whom she also shares a room at Japan 2012.

“We spend nearly all our time together, and we have a good understanding that shows on the pitch,” said Hegerberg, who has nothing but admiration for the qualities of her big sister. “She has the best left foot I know. She supports me, encourages me and gives me advice. She’s my heroine.”

As Hegerberg went on to explain, her older sibling is by no means the only inspirational figure in her family. “Our mother and father are both former professionals, and they’ve always been our personal coaches,” said the forward, who plays alongside her sister for club side Stabaek and dreams of turning her passion into a full-time career.

“I study at the same time, but football is the thing I enjoy the most at the moment,” she said. “It’s down to me, and no-one else, to work as hard as possible if I want to make it happen and play at the highest level for a very long time.”