By Paul Saffer at Deepdale
Norway had five goals and, more importantly, a semi-final place to celebrate after their thrilling 5-3 win against Italy in Preston proved enough to take them through.
Not only did they inflict the Azzurre's third defeat in Group B with some sublime attacking football - reciprocated by their opponents for their consolations - Norway also secured second place on goal difference and a date with Sweden after France fell 3-0 to pool winners Germany.
With three points essential, Norway coach Bjarne Berntsen went for the forward line that salvaged their campaign against France in the form of second-half substitutes Lise Klaveness and 16-year-old goalscorer Isabell Herloven, while Marianne Paulsen replaced Siri Nordby in defence. With only pride to play for, Italy gave first finals starts to defender Valentina Lanzieri, midfielder Elisa Camporese and striker Melania Gabbiadini. Gioia Masia was suspended.
Unsurprisingly, Norway surged forward from the start, earning three corners within the first seven minutes. They scored from the third as Klaveness broke free from her marker to get her foot to Trine Rønning's centre as goalkeeper Carla Brunozzi failed to scramble the ball away.
Italy levelled moments later. The pacy Ilaria Pasqui broke down the right, cut into the Norwegian box and her low cross was turned in by Gabbiadini. Now Norway had to attack again, and Solveig Gulbrandsen played a superb through-ball to Dagny Mellgren, whose dangerous cross was cut out by her fellow No14, Lanzieri.
Herlovsen was threatening down the left, and one delicate cross was flicked on by Mellgren and only just eluded Klaveness's head. Mellgren then volleyed on to the underside of the crossbar and the ball eventually was scrambled behind. However, from the resultant Stensland corner Norway’s lead was restored, as Marit Fiane Chritsensen's header from the penalty spot bounced out of the reach of both Mellgren and Brunozzi and into the net. Italy almost equalised once more, only for Patrizia Panico to be dispossessed in the box.
Instead, Norway took a two-goal lead from a set-piece after Herlovsen was upended just outside the box. Stensland curled the ball in and Gulbrandsen burst forward to force it into the net. Just before the break another Herlovsen surge produced a further goal, with Mellgren connecting with her cross.
Italy had the first shot of the second half, as Pamela Conti curled wide after an impressive passing move. But on 52 minutes Gabbiadini had her second of the game as she pounced on a loose ball from an interception, strode forward and slotted in.
That was the cue for Norway to increase their tally. Mellgren showed her skills on the right, cutting back for Klaveness to lift the ball past Brunozzi. Worse was to come for Italy as Lanzieri's game ended early due to a stomach injury.
Camporese was next on the scoresheet in the 69th minute, chesting down a clearance and her long-range shot leaving Bente Nordby clutching at air. Not long after, Christensen had to intercept a Pasqui cross - and then news filtered through of Germany's goals. The game petered out a little, but for Norway the hard work had been done, and they can now look forward to a Thursday showdown with neighbours Sweden in Warrington.