Norway 1, Equatorial Guinea 0
Augsburg temp in the mid-80s. EG, ranked 61st, is the lowest ranked team to make the WWC finals. Not quite the same team that qualified, as Ghana questioned whether some players were actually female, so two were dropped from the team, another was dropped for having played for Spain, and a defender was killed in a December car crash. Norway, ranked 9th, has a history of scoring multiple goals against African teams, and perhaps expected a game of padding their goal differential. But the speedy Nzalang Nacional gave the Gresshoppene a scare.
1' - Añonman, EG MF who plays for club in Germany, distinctive in fluorescent green striped dreads, takes a weak shot from 30 yds, easily saved by Ingrid Hjelmseth. Añonman will earn distinction for more than her hair.
2' - EG goal kick is headed back by Norway. The EG R or RCB, coming back right to center towards her goal, instead of heading the ball back to the goalie, heads the ball to their defensive left, but not very strongly. MF Emilie Haavi pounces on the ball in the box and shoots from just to the right of the 6 yd box. The ball hits the far post and bounces back in the direction of the shot. F Isabell Herlovsen lunges for the ball and gets her right foot on it, but her shot from 4 yds is high and wide.
7' - Añonman dribbles from EG side of left midfield, past a couple Nor players, takes a very ambitious shot from 38 yds out, well wide left. But we're beginning to see her talent. Announcer Beth Mulllins says she was the leading scorer on Jena and will be moving up to Turbine Pottsdam next season.
9' - Nor lobs ball up right midfield, Herlovsen, 6 yds outside the penalty area, heads the ball to the center and makes a run to the box. F Madeleine Giske heads it to her in a nice give-and-go, and Herlovsen dribbles towards goal, taking a shot from just outside the corner of the 6 yd box. It goes way over the crossbar.
19' - Añonman dribbling from EG end sends long pass from the edge of the circle. Nor defender attempts to trap it, but it bounces away from her, and F Diala gets to it. She stops the ball, turns back to her left and sends a lovely through ball to LB Dulcia, cutting in from the left. Duclia's first touch is just outside the 18, and she shoots from 12 yds, but it's blocked by a lunging Haavi (hits the underside of her reaching leg), and Hjelmseth dives on it. Cameraman has found an EG fan, who is very emotional, and replays will feature him a lot. After the attempt he raises his arms up, then turns and falls back into his seat, arms draped over the back, despondent.
22' - Añonman at EG side of left midfield sends a 40+ yd pass to the left corner of the box, where MF Dorine catches up to it, getting in front of the Nor defender. She shoots from ~12 yds, and it's probably going wide right, but Hjelmseth falls on it in the center of the 6 yd box.
22' - Replay conceals how the goalie got rid of the ball, but back to live action, EG gets the ball just on their side of center and long pass goes to Dorine, bounces off her chest or stomach (she later goes down) back to Añonman, who gets it at the edge of the circle on Nor side. She takes a few little dribbles to get herself facing goal and shoots from 42 yds. Hjelmseth backpedals and dives to her right to knock the ball out of bounds. EG fan is distraught, raises his hands in a Y, brings them back to his chest, raises them to the heavens again, then drops them on top of his head as he jumps up and down. Was he pleading with the soccer gods to have mercy on him and let EG score a goal? Or perhaps he thought the long shot was ill-taken? Got a corner out of it, though.
33' - F Elise Thorsnes steals the ball on the left, dribbles forward and shoots at the 18. G Miriam dives and prevents the ball from going in the lower left corner.
35' - Herlovsen and Giske work the ball up the center of the field, passing back and forth. Herlovsen gets behind the EG midfielders into some space and shoots from 26 yds, but it's high.
44' - Marita Lund sends the ball up the left side to Thorsnes. EG player slides in an attempt to intercept, but misses. Thorsnes catches up to the ball at the side of the box, fakes end line and cuts it back, turning her defender around. She shoots from just outside the corner of the 6 yd box, but D Carolina throws her body in front to block.
45' - Vania passes to Añonman, just outside the box on the right. She attempts to dribble in, but two Nor defenders make her turn back. She turns back to face goal, steps to her right and shoots. Easy save for Hjelmseth in front of the post. Announcer Beth Mullins said after that Añonman was motioning to her teammates to get moving and make a run.
45' - EG D heads ball down and MF Jumaria heads the ball as it's going up. It bounces on the EG side of center line and over the Nor player who's marking Añonman as she goes to the ball. Añonman cuts upfield and gets to the ball first, shields the Nor player and races upfield. Another Nor player can't get back to cut her off, and Añonman gets deep into the box and shoots from 10 yds. It's a hard shot, but maybe waist hight and right at Hjelmseth who makes the reaction save and then dives on the loose ball. EG fan holds his head and stomps down the row (several empty seats around him). Then he picks up his flag and drapes it around his neck and presumably goes on to celebrate his team's effort.
48' - Three nice one-touch passes in Nor offensive third, and Thorsnes gets the ball at the left side of the box. She strikes it immediately, 12 yds from the end line, trying to curve it inside the far post, but it's wide. Announcer Cat Whitehill says a cross would have been better, as three Nor were running unmarked in the box.
50' - Nor free kick. EG fails with offside trap and three Nor players get behind the D. Herlovsen must have closed her eyes too early, as the ball goes almost straight up, not towards goal. EG players heads it high again, and it comes to earth outside the 6 yd box, where Herlovsen gets to it, turns and shoots, but it's blocked and cleared.
53' - D Bruna gets a back pass at right midfield, lazy on the ball, attempts to pull the ball back behind her, but Thorsnes sticks her foot in to knock the ball away and heads for the box. She centers to Herlovsen, who shoots wide left.
53' - Dorine, 31 yds out in the center of the field, passes 5 yds up to Añonman, making a run. She turns to shield the ball from a Nor defender who was sticking her leg out and falls down from the contact. Añonman continues her clockwise pirouette and charges into the box with two Nor chasing her. She shoots from 11 yds for the far post, but it doesn't bend and goes wide right. EG fan on his knees, anguished expression, alternates between holding his head and slapping the seatbacks in front of him. AAAAHHHH!!! WHY?? WHY, SOCCER GODS, WHY?!?!
58' - Nor corner kick, crazy action. Headed out from a mass of bodies to Thorsnes? just outside the 6 who heads it back toward goal. Miriam dives and saves, but the ball bounces behind her. Dorine and Herlovsen kick at it as it's in the air, and the ball deflects towards the left post where it bounces. Another EG player rushes to block off the goal as Herlovsen also goes for the ball, but she gets bodied/shoved off. The ball comes to rest just in front of the post, and EG clears it out of bounds (it looked like Dorine's sliding foot impacted her teammate's foot, which hit the ball).
63' - Trine Ronning sends a long ball into the box, where Cecilie Pedersen, who just subbed in, gets behind the defense and dives for a head ball just outside the 6. She whiffs - must have closed her eyes. EG fan is standing and shaking a finger. Telling the D to cover better? Off the goal kick Maren Mjelde goes after the bouncing ball and gets her boot up very high and rakes the face of Dorine, who was trying to head the ball. Yellow carded.
68' - After a delay Añonman takes the free kick, shooting from 38 yds out. It goes high.
71' - Adriana sends a ball from the right sideline to the box where Añonman has made a diagonal run from center, getting behind the Nor backline. She catches up to it about 11 yds from the end line and shoots, but Hjelmseth has come way out of her goal to block it immediately. Corner.
72' - Dorine's corner arches over the goalie, who came out near post, and Ana Cristina has a chance, but heads it down, where it bounces wide left.
74' - Vania crosses to Adriana in the box. She chests it down, it bounces high, and she sort of bicycle kicks it over the D, but it bounces in the 6 yd box and goes wide right of goal. No danger, Hjelmseth was there.
75' - EG wins the ball after the goal kick, and Chinasa, near the circle on Nor side, sends a through ball to Añonman, running center to right. She beats the D, catching up to the ball in the right middle of the box and shoots a one-timer from 13 yds, but it goes well left.
78' - After a throw-in from the left, Haavi beats her defender and evades another's attempted slide tackle and heads to the box, where she shoots from the corner. It's just a bit high, landing on top of the net.
81' - Nor throw-in taken quickly from right in EG end, cross from right wing is headed out. Ronning, 33 yds out, heads it back, two EG and a Nor player collide, going down 24 yds out. The ball rolls back a few yds, and Ronning pounces on the loose ball, beating an EG player and sending it up to Pedersen, just outside the box. She turns and shoots to the upper third of the net, where Miriam knocks it over the bar. Cat Whitehill says a more experienced keeper would have caught it.
82' - Corner is cleared. After the ball gets knocked around midfield, Ana Cristina sends a through ball to Añonman, but she's just a bit offsides.
84' - Mjelde sends a ball to the right wing, where an unmarked Nor player cuts to the side of the box and sends a cross. It curls just out of the reach of a diving Miriam. Stensland misses it, but Haavi is at the 6 unmarked and knocks it home. GOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!
EG managed a couple more shots that were easily saved.
Tough loss for EG, who had given Nor more than they expected. They came ready to play, and Nor was probably expecting a cakewalk. EG's speed put Nor on their heels in the first half. Nor was better in the second half, though there were still runs by Añonman. She just lacked a quality finish. This game was looking like a tie, when EG had a late defensive breakdown, and Nor took advantage.
Brazil 1, Australia 0
(Holy crap, where does the time go? I watched this game, but won't have time for much of a recap.)
Brazil's jogo wasn't so bonito in the first half. They had some early chances, but shots sailed over the net. 30' a Brazilian defender didn't trap a back pass just outside the box, and F Lisa de Vanna pounced on it, shooting from 16 yds. But it was not struck well and went wide left. More Brazil misses. At the end of the first half, Aus MF Garriock sends a ball into the box, and F Kyah Simon can't get to it, and it goes wide right. Announcer Bruce Arena says it was more of a shot than a pass; if had been a pass, Simon could have had an opportunity, as she got behind the D.
54' - Brazil cross from right midfield gets headed up into the air by opposing players. Cristiane gets to it 6 yds outside the box, flicks it into the air in a pass to herself. A Matilda cuts her off, but I guess there's spin on the ball, as Cristiane gets to it and pops it into the air again. Then she heads it forward into the box where Rosana flips it with her right foot to her left side, as a Matilda leaps in trying to cut her off, but her momentum carries her away from the ball. With space Rosana strikes a left-footed half-volley into the net. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!
Brazil didn't play like I expected, but they pulled out their magic on the goal. With the first game out of the way, and three points in the bank, they should improve. The Matildas were much better than in previous Cups, where it was long ball or bust. They actually ended up with a slight edge in possession, 52 to 48%.
Next up: Brazil vs Norway, and Australia vs EG. Someone will have to win the latter game if they want to have a chance to go through.