Caroline Graham Hansen: The Norway star who could wreck England's World Cup dream

Caroline Graham Hansen
Hansen will join Barcelona from Wolfsburg next season
Fifa Women's World Cup 2019
Host nation: France Dates: 7 June - 7 July 2019
Coverage: Live across BBC TV, radio and the BBC Sport website and app

"Caroline Graham Hansen is a rock star" was one American journalist's reaction after witnessing a brilliant performance from Norway's number 10 in the last 16 of the Women's World Cup.

The winger held her nerve to score the opening penalty in the shootout, which Norway won 4-1, having almost pulled off what would have been one of the goals of the tournament earlier in the game, when she accelerated past several yellow shirts and curled the ball from the edge of the area only to see her shot come off the inside of the post.

She went on to be named player of the match for the second time in four games, and the stats speak for themselves: 11 of Norway's 16 shots on goal came from her boot, with five on target.

Now it's England who will have to contend with the pace and drive of the 24-year-old Barcelona signing when they meet Norway in Thursday's quarter-final in Le Havre.

Who is she?

Born and raised in Oslo, Graham Hansen spent the early years of her career playing in her home nation, making her debut in Norway's top flight at the age of 15, and also had a brief spell in Sweden.

In 2014 she was signed by Wolfsburg, who have been a dominant force in the German Bundesliga over the past decade.

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Highlights: South Korea 1-2 Norway

Graham Hansen won three league titles and reached two Champions League finals during her time in Germany, scoring 51 goals in 133 appearances along the way.

But they will have to cope without her next season. The winger signed a two-year deal with Barca in May, becoming the first Norwegian to sign for the Spanish giants.

'Give her the ball and let her work her magic'

Graham Hansen was hampered by injury early in her career, and a knee problem caused her to miss the 2015 World Cup, where England beat Norway 2-1 in the last 16.

Now back to full fitness, bar a knock before the game against Australia, Graham Hansen is the key component in Norway's impressive midfield, alongside Guro Reiten and Wolfsburg's Ingrid Syrstad Engen.

It will be a stern test for England's defence on Thursday, who have so far conceded only once in four victories but who may be without the centre-back pairing of Steph Houghton and Millie Bright.

"Graham Hansen is the one player who can create something on her own," journalist Endre Lubeck told BBC Sport.

"Other players are good passers of the ball, they can run and sprint and tackle. But she's an atypical Norwegian player. Men's and women's players are usually strong, physical and good with their head but she's really different.

"If she wants to dribble past three people and then choose a decisive shot, she'll just do it.

"Sometimes they just give the ball to her and let her work her magic."

Her national team coach Martin Sjogren says the experience gained over the past two years, which included six goals in eight qualifying games, has made her a more complete player.

"She has a lot of qualities on the pitch and we've seen that for a long time. Now she has been injury-free for a long time, particularly in her offensive play, she is tremendous.

"What she has really been developing is her mindset off the field. She's taking more responsibility and it's making her better on the pitch.

"We've seen a lot of development. Her part in the group has been awesome and that's been important for me and the team."

'Who is this Messi we have?'

At the outset of the tournament, many outsiders were fixated of the effect on Norway, the 1995 winners, of the absence of forward Ada Hegerberg - the 2018 Ballon d'Or winner.

After a poor showing at Euro 2017, when the team failed to get out of the group stages, the Lyon forward decided not to play for her country, citing off-field issues and a lack of equal opportunities.

The three-time Champions League winner has become a global star in her own right, but it is Graham Hansen who has taken the spotlight in their native Norway.

Caroline Graham Hansen
Caroline Graham Hansen has picked up two player of the match awards at the World Cup

"She's kind of like a pop star now in Norway after the last two weeks," added Lubeck.

"Everyone is talking about the World Cup now because the men's team is not good at all so we haven't had much to celebrate in recent years.

"Almost one million people saw the game against Australia over here. Some people don't focus on soccer when it's not a major championship, but now people are starting to ask 'who is this Lionel Messi we have?'

"It's cool to see a player from Norway who is doing her own thing."

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