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2019 Women's World Cup

In which Caroline Graham Hansen and Guro Reiten announce themselves to the world

Photo Copyright Daniela Porcelli

REIMS, France – Norway’s stars took center stage on Saturday, gliding past defenders and combining in harmony as the ball stuck like glue to their feet. One of them seemed not to run, but to glide with the ball as she smoothly cut past – or, sometimes, through – defenders. The other exhibited her speed and precision on the counterattack and from more central positions.

Each drew audible gasps from the crowd of 11,508 at the Stade Auguste-Delaune, a stadium which was fittingly only half-full, causing the reactions to feel that much more personable. This wasn’t the main attraction, but there might be a hidden gem or two here. Something – somebody – was being discovered here, at least by the wider world.

Mainstream attention around this Norwegian team in the buildup to the 2019 World Cup has focused on one player – a player not even on the roster. As the story of Ada Hegerberg’s protest against her federation – and her subsequent, self-imposed absence from the competition – loomed over this team in their first match of the tournament, Norway made things look easy against an overwhelmed Nigeria side.

The story on Saturday wasn’t about Hegerberg.

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