Norway have twice drawn with Italy since losing to them in the 2008 final, but Kristine Hegland thinks Melissa Bjånesøy could make all the difference when they meet again on Wednesday.
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Norway captain Kristine Hegland says "it's our turn this time" as Jarl Torske's precocious charges aim to avenge their 2008 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship final defeat by upsetting hosts Italy in the last four on Wednesday.
"I saw the 2008 final on television and while I don't remember much of the game Jarl has mentioned it a little and he says he wants revenge," she told UEFA.com. "It's going to be a very tight game but I think we're going to win and if we play like we did against the Netherlands and Spain we will. We have a lot of good players, especially going forward, and if everyone is at their best then it's ours."
Hegland is softly spoken but her assuredness is loud and clear; and not without good cause. After a sluggish start to the tournament, losing 3-1 to Germany, the youngest side at these finals got back on track with a 3-0 victory over the Netherlands. Yet it is Sunday's 5-1 win against a hitherto compact Spain side that marked them as real contenders. "It was terrific," said Hegland. "Everyone was at the top of their game and we went out there and did exactly what the coaches told us to. It was fun."
Norway have been having a good time off the pitch too. Before the Spain game the squad took a walk on the beach and surprised Torske and defender Maria Thorisdottir with a birthday song composed by Hegland's room-mate, goalkeeper Kirvil Odden. It kicked off a "perfect birthday" for the coach, who ended it with an impromptu dance at full time in Forli. "He means everything to the squad and we have a lot of respect for him," said his captain. "He's very calm and that filters down to the players. He always knows the right thing to say.
"There's a great atmosphere in the squad and it's good to have players from a variety of age groups. This is my second European U19 Championship and I also played at the U-20 World Cup three years ago but for others this is their first final tournament and a mixture works well. From the beginning I've been telling the other girls how wonderful it is to play at a World Cup. I think it helped motivate them to do their best as they want to experience that too."
Many will, as the Spain win also secured a place at next year's FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup. Yet focus never ventures too far from Italy, and Hegland hopes her prolific partnership with Melissa Bjånesøy – the pair have contributed seven goals in three games here – keeps producing. "In Norway we're enemies, her for Sandviken and me with Arne-Bjørnar, but here we're good team-mates. She's an excellent player and has made a big difference to the side. She scored on her debut last year and has not stopped since."
Norway have faced Italy twice at La Manga since 2008. Hegland scored as the sides shared eight goals in 2009 while last year's meeting ended 0-0. Crucially, perhaps, Bjånesøy is yet to face the Azzurrine. "It would mean everything for us to get to the final, and for everyone in Norway, though I think Jarl will cry if we do," said Hegland. Having played and lost three previous showpieces you can forgive Torske that, but this side have something about them.