They may be one of Africa’s smallest countries, but Equatorial Guinea have certainly made a big impression on their first appearance at a FIFA Women’s World Cup™. Particularly since they have been drawn in a fiercely tough Group D here at Germany 2011, alongside South American champions Brazil, Asian counterparts Australia and 1995 world champions Norway.
“Equatorial Guinea ought to be very proud of these girls, because out on the pitch they gave it everything they had and showed a total love for their colours,” said coach Marcello Frigerio in conversation with FIFA.com. “If we can keep that going in our last game, and show that same attitude, we’ll exit the tournament with our heads held very high.”
Indeed, despite their lack of experience at this level, the Equatorial Guineans held out until the 84th minute in their 1-0 defeat to Norway and pushed an impressive Australia side all the way in a 3-2 reverse. “Our aim from the start here has been to give a good account of ourselves,” continued the team’s Brazilian-born supremo, who has Italian nationality. “We’ve not been under any obligation. The pressure’s been on our opponents’ shoulders, given they’ve all got a greater women’s football pedigree and therefore higher expectations to fulfil.”
Given his roots, Frigerio is sure to savour Wednesday’s game in Frankfurt against none other than A Seleção, who have already qualified for the next phase. “I’m sure it’ll be a very special game,” said the strategist. “It’s my native country and it’s only logical that, once our campaign’s over, I’ll be rooting for Brazil. It’s important for them to do very well in order to make sure women’s football keeps growing over there. After this next game is over, of course I’ll be supporting them all the way.”
However, before he can don a green-and-yellow scarf, the tactician must first decide how best to tackle Marta and Co. “It’ll be a difficult game but we know them well and we know how they play. We intend to go out and play with the same determination we showed in our two previous games. We came very close to levelling the game against Australia, so we’re going to go at Brazil in the same way to try to exit the competition with our heads held high.”
True to their coach’s word, Equatorial Guinea have lined up in an attacking 3-4-2-1 system so far, a formation which allows captain Genoveva Anonman – who plays her club football for Jena here in Germany – to shine. “I think this competition will give a lot of our players the opportunity to play in stronger leagues,” said Frigerio, who will leave his post after Germany 2011. “We’ve got several players who’ve proved they’re competitive, that they’ve got something different. (Defenders) Dulcia and Carolina, for example, have shown their quality and I’m sure they’ll have offers.”
Though his time at the helm has been short, the well-respected coach feels that this tournament can be a stepping stone for the development of women’s football in Equatorial Guinea. “It’s been a very intense project,” he said as the interview ended. “In order to take part at this World Cup the girls have had to adapt to new things, such as the climate and the food. There have been a lot of new things in a short space of time, but this experience will help the players grow and they’ll get good results in the future.”