It has not been the best of years for Norwegian teams on the international stage but Stabæk FK have a great chance to put that right on Wednesday.
A hard-fought 1-0 win against three-time winners 1. FFC Frankfurt in the first leg of their UEFA Women's Champions League round of 32 tie was a stunning result for European debutants Stabæk. The return in Germany will be far from easy, but coach Roger Finjord knows his side are in a strong position to emulate compatriots Kolbotn IL, who stunned Frankfurt in the 2006/07 quarter-finals.
"If we manage to score in Frankfurt, they will need to score three goals," Finjord said. "
This team has showed so much determination, and to beat the best women's club team in the world is some achievement. The girls will be even more confident that they can knock Frankfurt out."
The key to Stabæk's win, via a deflected Cathrine Dekkerhus shot, was the performance of Norway goalkeeper Ingrid Hjelmseth. However, once the final whistle went, the thoughts of a player who took part in the very first UEFA Women's Cup ten years ago with SK Trondheims-Ørn immediately turned to the second leg.
We didn't party after the win, instead we spent a lot of time in the dressing room in analysing the game," she said. "This shows the unique spirit in this team. We felt that we won the game together, and we will need to replicate this in Germany. The most pressure will come from the players themselves. We will need the right determination and tactics to have any chance of going through."
National coach Eli Landsem was particularly delighted by the result, coming as it does after a summer where Norway failed to negotiate the FIFA Women's World Cup group stage and lost their opening UEFA Women's EURO 2013 qualifier in Iceland. With the men's side looking hard-pressed to make UEFA EURO 2012 and all the male clubs out of Europe, Stabæk are carrying a lot of hopes.
"Norwegian elite football needed Stabæk's result," Landsem said. "It shows that we do some things right. Stabæk are our hope now, and I really hope they manage to go through. A long season of Champions League football will give the young players valuable experience."
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