By Kevin Estrada
Former FIFA Women’s World Cup champions Norway proved to be more than just head and shoulders above the Philippines, as it barged into the knockout phase with a classy 6-0 win at Auckland’s Eden Park last Sunday, July 30.
What was supposed to be a dogfight between the Grasshoppers and the Malditas turned to be a one-sided mauling by the 1995 champions, as its former Golden Ball winner Hege Riise manage to prevent its worst showing and hit their form just in time after only getting a point in their first two matches.
Despite the loss, Alen Stajcic and his side can beam with immense pride with their achievement, especially with the majority of the 34,697 that trooped to the stadium siding with the debutants who eventually finished bottom of their group.
With Lyon’s Ada Hegerberg out with a groin injury, Sophie Roman Haug stepped up in absence of the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner, netting a hat-trick to give Norway its ticket to the last 16 out of Group A with four points in three matches.
Switzerland eventually won the group after their goalless draw with co-hosts New Zealand saw them move to five points, with the Football Ferns becoming the first-ever hosts to not advance from the group stage after being beaten by the Norwegians on goal difference.
The Roma striker made it easy with her left foot just six minutes in, latching on the looping ball by Vålerenga’s Thea Bjelde to the far left post of the six-yard box and volleys it past Olivia McDaniel to give them the lead.
Haug then doubled Norway’s advantage eleven minutes later from roughly the same spot, after heading home the cross by Vilde Bøe Risa of Manchester United.
Just a minute past the half-hour mark, Barcelona’s Carolina Graham Hansen virtually secured their first win of the competition after needing just one bounce from her right-footed shot that went past the Filpina goalkeeper to make it 3-0 until the halftime break.
The fearless Filipinas made a change from the side that stunned the co-hosts last Tuesday, but the decision to give Isabella Flanigan over Sophia Harrison was the one to regret for the whole match.
The Malditas were already down 0-5 after a 48th-minute own goal by Alicia Barker and a 53rd-minute penalty by Chelsea’s Guro Reiten when disaster struck in the midway point of the second half.
Just 10 minutes after coming on for the incoming West Virginia freshman, Canadian referee Marie-Soleil Beaudouin sent off Harrison after VAR proved that her challenge to Bjelde was excessive.
Haug eventually completed her treble in the fifth minute of stoppage time, after she headed home the left-footed cross by Reiten to cap off a Norwegian domination as they averted the outcome worse than their showing in 2011.
NORWAY: Mikalsen (GK), Hansen, Mjelde ©, Bjelde (Sønstevold 68’), Harviken (Bergsvand 81’), Bøe Risa, Reiten, Maanum (Engen 68’), Graham (Jøsendal 81’) Haavi (Sævik 68’) Haug
PHILIPPINES: O. McDaniel, Cowart, Long, Beard, Barker (Randle 57’), Sawicki (Bugay 74’), Eggesvik, Quezada (Serrano 81’), Guillou, Bolden (C. McDaniel 74’), Flanigan (Harrison 57’)
Image courtesy of Pilipinas Women’s National Football Team
Follow the writer on Twitter: @kevinlestrada