At the end of the day, three points is three points. That is the optimistic take for Norway following its 1-0 victory over Equatorial Guinea on Wednesday.
Equatorial Guinea dominated large stretches of the match and outshot Norway 20-18. The game looked destined for a 0-0 draw until 19-year-old Emilie Haavi scored in the 84th minute to give Norway the victory. It was a heartbreaking result for Equatorial Guinea, which did enough to deserve at least a point.
Midfielder Genoveva Añonma personally accounted for 15 of Equatorial Guinea’s shots and twice missed one-on-one opportunities with Norwegian goalkeeper Ingrid Hjelmseth. Añonma proved to live up to the hype as the team’s best player and one to look out for on the world stage, but Equatorial Guinea squandered its chances throughout the match.
Norway Head Coach Eli Landsem has to be concerned with her team’s play after a poor first half gave way to a chaotic and wide-open second half. Haavi’s goal bailed Norway out of the very tough prospect of dropping points against Equatorial Guinea with matches ahead against Brazil and Australia. Haavi was Norway’s best player in the match and one of the only who could match the speed and pace of an athletic Equatorial Guinea side.
But Haavi’s Norwegian teammates struggled to contain Añonma and should have been punished on several occasions. The lack of pace in the back for Norway is of particular concern for upcoming matches against Brazil and Australia. Lisa De Vanna’s speed could take advantage of that for the Matildas, while Brazilian superstar Marta should have her way with the Norwegian defense if it performs that way again.
Equatorial Guinea lacks the necessary experience and discipline to be a world beater in this tournament. If Marcello Frigerio’s team had that it probably could have pulled out a result on Wednesday, but it also would not have led to such an exciting end-to-end game.
The African side – which finished second in qualifying behind Nigeria – did not hesitate to test Hjelmseth from distance, evidenced by the team’s 20 shots. Many of those came from beyond 25 yards, although only eight were on target.
Equatorial Guinea will need to pick up at least a point against Australia on Sunday, but this quick team actually could give the Brazilian back line trouble in the final game in Group D on Wednesday. However, it will struggle on the other end trying to handle Marta defensively.
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