- Watchwords have helped drive Norway into the France 2019 quarter-finals
- Anders Jacobsson explains how they have transformed their fortunes
- Guro Reiten insists the Norway players want to be “pleasant and kind”
Change was required in the Norway camp. After back-to-back below-par FIFA Women’s World Cup™ campaigns – the 1995 champions crashed out in the group stage at Germany 2011 and the Round of 16 at Canada 2015 – the Norwegian players and coaches began a period of soul-searching that has completely altered the way they think and act on and off the field.
The result is that they developed a number of watchwords which have guided them into the France 2019 quarter-finals, where they will meet England in Le Havre on Thursday.
“We sat down with the players early in 2017 and asked them what kind of words they wanted to be associated with, and then we asked them to talk in groups about how these words could be embodied by their actions,” assistant coach Anders Jacobsson told FIFA.
When the list of words was decided, the players were asked to dig a little deeper. Jacobsson continued: “We asked them to think about what they do, how and why they do it, and the fourth question for each word was, ‘What can I do when it’s tough to uphold these values?’”
That final question was tested almost straight away as Norway crashed out of UEFA EURO 2017 with three defeats and without even scoring. Undeterred, the work with developing the team’s shared values continued. Fourteen months on, a revitalised Norway beat reigning European champions Netherlands to qualify directly for France 2019, and the players have made these guiding principles a part of their everyday lives.
The key words have changed over time. Now they include respect, togetherness, professionalism and security.
“The most important thing for me is that we are there for one other, and that we support one another all the way,” said winger Guro Reiten. “The sense of security we feel in this team is enormous.
“Everybody has bad days at the World Cup, and it’s great to have someone to give you a pat on the shoulder and tell you that we’ll get through this together. It’s not up to you or me – it’s up to all of us to do this together, and you see it on the pitch when you make a mistake and someone else immediately tries to put it right.”
Jacobsson stresses the difference between having hard and fast rules and the guidelines that the players themselves decide upon: “If we have rules, it feels like we are forcing people to behave in a certain way, but by having guidelines, they themselves choose to behave in the right way.
In France, the two most influential words in the Norway camp are ‘sterkere sammen’ (stronger together), and so far it has shown on the field.
“This is how we wish to be perceived as people, as players who want to play and win, but also as being pleasant and kind, and I hope everyone sees that,” Reiten said.
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