Filipinas battle heavily favored Norwegians for slot in KO stages

Philippines Fifa Women's Wolrd CUp

Philippines players celebrate following the Women’s World Cup Group A soccer match between New Zealand and the Philippines in Wellington, New Zealand, Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (AP Photo/John Cowpland)

Olivia McDaniel and the Philippines still consider Norway as having the advantage ahead of their crunch Group A tussle, this despite cracks showing within the camp of the former winner of the Fifa  Women’s World Cup.

“It will be a tough game and they are a tough team,” McDaniel said as the Filipinas began preparations in this city for a monumental chance at securing a round-of-16 spot in the ultimate showcase of women’s football.

The Filipinas take on the Norwegians Sunday at Eden Park here, with a chance to do what only three debutants have achieved in the tournament’s short but rich history.

And with the Philippines coming off a historic first win in the tournament, any other help can certainly help swing the tide in favor of the Filipinas.

“They’re ranked very, very highly and we have to put our best foot forward,” McDaniel added.

McDaniel and Co. are on a high after the Filipinas stunned New Zealand, 1-0, in Wellington for the country’s landmark feat in the quadrennial tourney, a win not many thought was possible considering that the Filipinas are seeing action here for the first time.

Another scenario

Everything remains in the table in their group, however, with the Filipinas needing a win or get a draw plus a New Zealand loss to Switzerland in Dunedin to qualify against either Spain or Japan, the two sides that will advance in Group C.

Things took a drastic turn for the Norwegians after two match days as they lost to the host nation, 1-0, in the opener before settling for a goalless draw against the Swiss.

And amid the consistency of the team billed to top the group before the World Cup began are issues surrounding its top players Ada Hegerberg and Carolina Graham Hansen.

Hegerberg mysteriously didn’t play the last time despite being listed in the starting lineup and taking part in a customary photo seconds prior to kickoff because of a groin injury.

Prematch history

Norway's Ada Hegerberg, Caroline Graham Hansen and Ingrid Syrstad Engen Women's World Cup

Soccer Football – FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 – Group A – New Zealand v Norway – Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand – July 20, 2023 Norway’s Ada Hegerberg, Caroline Graham Hansen and Ingrid Syrstad Engen look dejected after the match REUTERS/David Rowland

The team said after the Switzerland draw that the former Ballon d’Or winner for French club Lyon got the injury while sprinting before the referee blew the opening whistle.

Graham Hansen had expressed some outbursts before Norwegian media about her role in the ongoing competition, including being a substitute against Switzerland. She entered that game in the second half.

The Barcelona winger eventually apologized, saying that she got caught up in the emotions.

Those reported issues notwithstanding, many see Norway, ranked 12th in the recent Fifa rankings, as the favorites to beat the Philippines and salvage a slot in the knockout phase.

“They are one of the best teams in the world with Ballon d’Or winners and many players playing in Barcelona like Graham Hansen,” Filipinas coach Allen Stajcic said.

“That’s such a monumental task for us to come up against them especially when [this] is [our] third game in just over a week,” he went on. “[S]o being able to recover physically and, let alone, from the emotions of [the victory over New Zealand is important].”

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