Hegerberg seeks to emulate Messi and win World Cup to sate unfulfilled career with Norway

Olympique Lyon's Ada Hegerberg, top, challenges for the ball with Barcelona's goalkeeper Sandra Panos during the Women's Champions League final soccer match between Barcelona and Olympique Lyonnais at Allianz Stadium in Turin, Italy, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

She has often been described as the Lionel Messi of women’s soccer because of her scoring feats.

Now Ada Hegerberg is looking to accomplish what the Argentinian great finally achieved a few months ago and win a World Cup to sate a largely unfulfilled international career.


A total of three goals across three major international tournaments for Norway doesn’t do justice to one of the greatest scorers in the history of the women’s game. Hegerberg, after all, has netted more goals in the Champions League — the highest stage in women’s soccer at club level — than any player, with 59. She became the record holder at the age of 24.

With Lyon, she’s a six-time Champions League winner, an eight-time French league winner and a six-time French Cup winner. She has a scoring average of more than a goal per game for Lyon, European soccer’s most decorated team.

Oh, and of course, she was the first female winner of the Ballon d’Or in 2018 at an award ceremony in Paris.

Yet when it comes to hardware through feats for her national team, Hegerberg’s cupboard is bare.

The closest she came to a trophy for Norway was at her first ever senior international tournament — the European Championship in 2013 — when her team lost in the final to Germany.

Since then, it’s been a fairly sorry tale for a player who for many has transcended her national team. She has never competed at the Olympics, her only World Cup was in 2015 when Norway exited in the round of 16, and there was a group-stage elimination at the European Championship last year.

Hegerberg would have played in more major tournaments had she not decided to rule herself out of selection for her national team for five years because of what she perceived to be a general disregard for women’s soccer in Norway at the time. The crux of her frustration was the uneven pace of progress and strategy in the women’s game. She was absent until 2022, when she opted to return ahead of that year’s European Championship — coinciding with the arrival of Lise Klaveness, her former Stabæk teammate, as president of the Norwegian soccer federation.

“I was able to have very honest discussions with the federation, firstly through Lise,” she said. “I am very glad to be able to come back with the team and get a new story started.”

A year later, Hegerberg is still attempting to make up for lost time in a Norway uniform — and after a frustrating domestic season, too.

Hegerberg, who spent 21 months out in 2020-21 because of an anterior cruciate ligament injury, was missing for another seven months this season because of an unspecified injury that was not widely reported.

Scoring is never a problem for this most natural of finishers — even at international level, she has 43 goals in 76 games since making her senior debut for Norway in 2011 at the age of 16.

For Hegerberg, it’s the trophies that are missing with Norway, which has won four major titles but none since the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

For that to change, it can’t all just be down to Hegerberg. Her teammates are going to have to step up, too.

Like Caroline Graham Hansen, the Barcelona midfielder who has 44 goals in 98 games for Norway and briefly took a break from her national team after last year’s European Championship.

Norway is in a group with Switzerland, the Philippines and New Zealand. While expected to reach the knockout stage, the Norwegians aren’t among the favorites to win the tournament that begins later this month.

Hegerberg might have something to say about that.

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