Norway hoping ‘best in the world’ defence can stop England’s ‘world-class’ Kirby in Women’s World Cup quarter-final clash

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Guro Reiten believes there is no better defensive partnership than Norway's and hopes that will be enough to stop England on Thursday

Guro Reiten is counting on Norway’s central defensive partnership of Maria Thorisdottir and Maren Mjelde to thwart “world-class” Fran Kirby, as they prepare to face England in the Women’s World Cup quarter-final.

Thorisdottir and Mjelde know Kirby very well as the trio play together in England with Chelsea – a club that Reiten herself will join after this summer’s tournament.

And after the pair kept Sam Kerr quiet in their penalty shootout win over Australia, the 24-year-old says they are the best defensive pairing in the world.

“I don’t think [anyone is better],” the midfielder said.

“They are so good [at] protecting our goal – [in] this game, [in] the last game against South Korea, they were amazing.

“They are the reason we keep the ball away. They are amazing.”

Thorisdottir shone further light on their partnership and praised her captain, calling her “one of the best in the world”.

“She’s a great leader,” she continued. “She’s calm, she’s just a really good person and a really good football player.

“Me and Maren know each other really well so we don’t always have to communicate with words.

“I can just look at her and we get eye contact and we know what we mean so that’s a really good relationship. I think we fit each other really well.”

Their next task is an England side who beat Cameroon, with VAR controversy overshadowing a performance in which they scored three great goals.

Steph Houghton’s arrowed strike from an indirect free-kick, Ellen White’s clinical finish and Alex Greenwood’s powerful effort from a well-worked free-kick saw off the African nation and, despite the Lionesses not being at their best, showed their quality.

Mjelde Ji Thorisdottir

Kirby herself hasn’t been at her best either, but Reiten is waiting for that to change.

Asked whether her future club-mate is world-class, the forward said: “Yes she is. [I’m] just waiting for her to do something great – hopefully not against us!”

Thorisdottir agreed, saying: “I think Fran is a really good player. She does a lot that no one sees.

“She’s not always the one that scores goals, but she’s the one that plays the assists, maybe the second assists. She works so hard.

“She’s a really good player that can maybe be like a ‘ghost’ sometimes, but I think she’s a really good player. You never know with her, she can do whatever.”

The 26-year-old revealed that she has spoke to Kirby during the tournament too, saying they have exchanged messages.

“[We just say] good luck and we support each other,” she said. “But if we’re going to play against [England], we’re enemies.

“We know about them and that’s a good thing, but they know about us as well.

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“England are a good team, but we are as well.

“We’re going for a medal so we have to go out and win the quarter-final.”

Norway take on England on Thursday 27 June, with kick-off 20:00 BST at the Stade Oceane in Le Havre.

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