Fighting for survival, Norway vented its wrath on the Philippines on Sunday (July 30) night with a 6-0 win that ended the Filipinas’ campaign in the FIFA Women’s World Cup on a downbeat note at the close of Group A action at Eden Park.
Finally living up to their lofty pedigree, the Grasshoppers were dominant from start to finish, with striker Sophie Roman Haug doing most of the damage with a hat trick in the sixth, 17th and 95th minutes as they fashioned the much-needed lopsided win.
Celebrated striker Caroline Graham Hansen had a blistering goal for the other marker in the 31st minute while Guro Reiten converted a penalty kick in the 53rd minute that boosted the former World Cup champions to second place on super goal difference and into the next round.
On a miserable night for the plucky charges of coach Alen Stajcic, defender Alicia Barker came off the bench and scored an own goal in the 48th minute during a goalmouth while substitute Sofia Harrison was flashed a red card 11th minutes later that left them with only 10 players on the pitch.
Also seeing their bid of advancing to the next round cut short were the hometown Ferns, who were held to a frustrating scoreless draw by Switzerland at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Thanks largely to their 1-0 win over the Philippines in the same venue last week, the Swiss sealed the top spot in the group with five points while the Norwegians took second with four points on superior goal difference as they both made it to the knockout round.
New Zealand, which finished third, and the Philippines were left out in the cold.
At the post-match press conference, Stajcic conceded that they played a much superior team.
“As we said, they are a very classy team. They were favorites to win this group and they showed some of their class today,” he noted. “They really picked us apart in some of the battles in the box early and this allowed them to be more creative as the game went on. “
But he praised his squad for fighting till the end despite being outclassed and outmanned, especially in the second half.
“We tried to fight to the end with 10 players and we kept them out from 25 to 30 minutes. I am so proud with the heart and spirit of the team. They fought till the end, to the death, and from that perspective it has been an amazing World Cup,” the coach stressed.
Haug, who plays for AS Roma in the Italian Serie A, Haug, opened the floodgates by scoring two consecutive goals in the first 17 minutes, booting the icebreaker with a left-footed flick inside the box in the sixth minute then did it again 11 minutes later with a glancing header almost from the same spot.
A star at Barcelona, Hansen blasted a sizzling roller from the right side of the fringe of the penalty area in the 31st that gave Norway an imposing 3-0 lead.
The Norwegians padded that lead to 4-0 when Barker couldn’t clear the ball in the face of intense pressure she accidentally drove the ball into the Philippine goal three minutes into the second half, after which Reiten added the fifth with a penalty kick off Anicka Castaneda’s tackle inside the box.
Fittingly, it was Haug who scored the last goal with a stunning strike five minutes into injury time.
Among the changes that the Stajcic made was giving youthful striker Isabella her first start after coming off the bench in the game against New Zealand, giving the squad another option on offense, but went for naught.
The Filipinas seemed energized from the huge crowd of Filipinos, numbering in the thousands, who came out to watch them play and hopefully prayed that they would pull another milestone.
Just like in Wellington, they paraded around the arena early in the afternoon, wearing the red-and-white and blue national colors and brandishing flags and flaglets, some of them wearing the traditional “salakots” to identify themselves as coming from the Philippines.
And they just kept on cheering them on even when the outcome was beyond doubt,
Among those in the huge “hometown” gallery were Sen. Pia Cayetano, the head of the PH contingent, Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richard Bachmann, who arrived from Manila last Saturday night and UAAP executive director Rebo Saguisag.