Norway coach Hege Riise was left sweating on news of an injury which forced star striker Ada Hegerberg out of Tuesday’s goalless Women’s World Cup draw with Switzerland.
Riise’s problems were exacerbated due to tensions in the squad with Caroline Graham Hansen unhappy at being left out of the line-up.
Winger Graham Hansen, a Champions League winner last month with Barcelona, was dropped by Riise for the game in Hamilton following Norway’s 1-0 defeat to co-hosts New Zealand in the opening match of the World Cup.
Meanwhile, former Ballon d’Or winner Hegerberg had lined up on the pitch for the national anthems before heading back towards the dressing room injured, with Sophie Roman Haug coming in as a last-minute replacement.
The Norwegian Football Association said Hegerberg had felt a pain in her groin in the final sprint of the warm-up, with Riise admitting she only realised a change would need to be made at the last moment.
“We were quick to have (the line-up) changed so Sophie could come in and not use a substitute,” said Riise, who did not provide any further update on the extent of Hegerberg’s injury.
Graham Hansen’s frustration at not starting might be a more pressing concern for Riise with Norway now needing to win their last Group A game against the Philippines just to stand a chance of reaching the last 16.
According to Norwegian media, Graham Hansen complained she had not been shown respect after being left out of the starting XI.
“These are things we will handle internally,” Riise said when asked about the player’s reaction.
“There is a lot of frustration that we didn’t win. Caroline is entitled to be frustrated and to express an opinion, but since I arrived in this position I have always said the team is the most important thing.
“All players want to start matches. I reached the decision in the best interest of my team and I defend my decision today,” added the 54-year-old coach.
Norway lacked inspiration in the final third in the absence of Hegerberg, the UEFA Champions League’s all-time top scorer, and with Graham Hansen only coming on just before the hour mark.
They remain without a goal or a win in the tournament and have just one point in Group A.
Switzerland are top with four points, one ahead of New Zealand and debutants the Philippines, who beat the co-hosts 1-0 earlier in Wellington.
Norway must win their final group game against the Philippines in Auckland on Sunday to stand a chance of progressing.
Switzerland just need to avoid defeat against New Zealand at the same time in order to reach the last 16.
The loss just before kick-off of Hegerberg, whose career has been blighted by injuries in recent years, was a disappointment for the 10,769 fans who showed up on a cold, wet and miserable night.
Her replacement, the Roma player Roman Haug, was unlucky not to score, forcing a good save from Swiss goalkeeper Gaelle Thalmann with a header midway through the first half and from a half-volley after the restart.
Norway were more lively following the introduction of Graham Hansen, who forced another save from Thalmann after cutting in from the right flank.
Her club teammate Ana Maria Crnogorcevic had Switzerland’s best chance, firing over after a quick exchange of passes in the first half.
Yet a draw was a better result for Switzerland, and Norway are at risk of a group-stage exit, just like at last year’s European Championship.