Defeat by Germany will not stop Norway from surprising the Netherlands on Thursday according to exam-taking striker Melissa Bjånesøy, who said: "At our best we can get three points."
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One of several girls juggling final-year school exams with the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship, Melissa Bjånesøy has a lot on her mind. Monday's defeat by Germany did not make revising for the following day's maths exam any easier, yet the free-scoring Norway striker was lucid enough to calculate the formula for victory against the Netherlands on Thursday. "If we play at our best we can get three points," she told UEFA.com.
Like Norway coach Jarl Torske, who conceded Germany were good value for their 3-1 triumph in Cervia, Bjånesøy was candid about the display. "We weren't terrible but Germany were on top for most of the game," she said. "They're the favourites and I can see why, but we played well in patches and I think we just have to take those positive spells into the next game."
With seven goals in qualifying Bjånesøy has cause for optimism. She added to a haul that includes strikes against the Netherlands and England, with a 35th-minute equaliser against Marin Meinert's side, before Germany restored their supremacy. However, the 19-year-old, whose effort was erroneously awarded by the stadium announcer to goal provider Caroline Hansen, is happy to keep a low profile.
"[Caroline] did a brilliant job to beat the German left-back and put a perfect ball beyond the goalkeeper and defender, so I had an easy job to score. I figured she deserved the credit." And what about the deluge of international goals that have established the IL Sandviken forward as one of the rising stars of the women's game? "Those were just a case of me happening to be the last person to touch the ball," she replied. "We are able to score against even the best teams."
A selfless streak belying a player with natural predatory instincts is reminiscent of her idol, Ole Gunnar Solskjær. "I'm good at moving around the defence and I can suddenly appear in the box," she said in perfect English, something she owes to her American mother. "I also like to drop back so we don't hit too many long balls.
"The Netherlands will be similar opponents to Germany. They are good on the ball, have great movement and some impressive strikers. We were lucky to draw when we last played them but I think we can do better. We need to trust ourselves more to take them on when we have the ball and, as much as they try to push us back, we must keep cool heads and pass it around like we know we can."
Bjånesøy's maturity makes it hard not to imagine her passing her final exam (physics) on Friday with flying colours. She is just as confident Norway will overcome their own test. "Our goal is to reach the semi-finals and we can definitely do that. We're in the toughest group so if we get that far we know that can win that one too. And we're not going to go into the final looking to lose."