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By Kevin Ashby at Halliwell Jones stadium
Isabell Herlovsen's first international goal kept Norway in contention for a place in the semi-finals and prevented France's passage with a game to spare as the substitute cancelled out Stéphanie Mugneret-Béghé's opener in Warrington.
Coach Bjarne Berntsen sent on the 16-year-old at half-time with Norway's place in the competition looking in grave danger. Twenty minutes later she headed in a fine equalising goal, sparing Siri Nordby's blushes after her error had allowed Mugneret-Béghé to score for France in the 20th minute. France need a point against Germany to join them in the last four, while only a win against Italy will do for Norway.
Nordby had come into the side at left-back with the player who had filled that position in the 1-0 loss to Germany, Gunhild Følstad, switching to the opposite side after Marianne Paulsen took ill this morning. France's sole change from the side which defeated Italy 3-1 also involved a left-back with Elisabeth Loisel bringing in the experienced Peggy Provost for Anne Laure Casseleux.
France's central midfield excelled on Monday and it was vital for Norway that No8 Solveig Gulbrandsen was not only able to contain opposite number Sonia Bompastor but also dictate the Scandinavian side's play. The 24-year-old attempted to do the latter from the off, winning two headers in dangerous positions including one from Stine Frantzen's free-kick which forced Sarah Bouhaddi into the first save of the match.
Marinette Pichon was also looking lively for France, showing great balance and awareness whenever in possession. She had already deceived Marit Fiane Christensen once with a clever turn when the defender exacted revenge by sliding in to take the pace off a shot by the forward as she bore down on Bente Nordby's goal.
Gulbrandsen saw more of the ball than any other player in the opening 20 minutes but it was Bompastor who created the opening goal by switching play from left to right with a raking ball to Mugneret-Béghé. Siri Nordby initially intercepted it with a header, only for Mugneret-Béghé to read her back-pass and show great opportunism to tuck the ball low into the Norway goal.
Gulbrandsen set about reviving her side's hopes and on the half-hour embarked on a trademark raid from the halfway line only to shoot tamely wide after being caught in two minds with players available on both flanks. Natural goalscorers have no such thoughts, and Pichon brought a save out of Nordby with a fierce left-foot drive as half-time approached.
Herlovsen's arrival provided Norway with the spark they were lacking and in the 66th minute she drew her side level by heading a corner she had won into the roof of the French net despite Bouhaddi's attempts to palm over. Norway were invigorated and Gulbrandsen worked an opening for Mellgren two minutes later by sliding a ball between the French defence, only for the winger's composure to desert her as the goal drew nearer.
Nordby then denied Pichon in the 69th minute with a diving save to her left from the striker's toe poke and Herlovsen headed another great chance wide from another corner. The drama was relentless late on, with Gulbrandsen hitting a post following a defensive slip and Sandrine Soubeyrand having a goal chalked off for offside – missed opportunities which set the pool up for a thrilling conclusion.
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