THE DAY REPLAYED* –* *The last four teams yet to make an appearance at this FIFA Women's World Cup Germany 2011™* entered the fray today in Monchengladbach and Augsburg. The latter city, the most southern of the nine selected to host matches during the tournament, was originally a Roman military base, and most fans expected a siege of the Equatorial Guinea goal in their match with Norway.
It did not turn out that way; under a burning sun, the unfancied CAF representatives made their supposedly superior opponents sweat with an impressive all-round performance. There was a Brazilian-style swagger to their play, which showcased a spectacular and entertaining array of skills, including step-overs, long-range lobs, shots from all sides and even bicycle kicks.
What was lacking in the final analysis was a result, as European experience finally overcame African exuberance, even if the scorer of the Norwegian goal, Emilie Haavi, is just 19 years of age. Two days after she turned three, Norway were crowned world champions, back on 18 June 1995. Could this again be the Scandinavians’ year?
The day’s second match pitted 2007 finalists Brazil against a constantly improving Australia side. The encounter promised action in the penalty area – in eight meetings between the two nations, there had never been a scoreless draw, and in Australia’s 13 previous FIFA Women’s World Cup matches, the Matildas had never managed to avoid conceding a goal.
In the arena that hosts Bundesliga giants Borussia Monchengladbach, the team whose attacking style of play thrilled Europe during the 1970s, the game did not produce the goalfest many had expected. The match was of a very high standard, however, with both defences putting in fine performances. A goal worthy of some of the great Brazilian men’s teams of the past was all that separated the teams in the end, maintaining the aforementioned statistical record in the process.
Norway 1-0 Equatorial Guinea
Brazil 1-0 Australia
Goal of the day
Brazil-Australia, 54’, Rosana
*If all of *As Canarinhas’ goals display this combination of flair and killer instinct, their matches are going to be worth watching. On the edge of the box, Cristiane deftly flicked the ball over the head of her opposite number and headed it on towards team-mate Rosana. The Brazil No6, under pressure from the back-tracking Tameka Butt, controlled it with her right foot, before smashing an unstoppable half-volley into the Australian net with her left.
*The Norway-Equatorial Guinea match unfolded in a surprising fashion, and there was an equally remarkable image in the stands to match it. Three nuns wearing Germany scarves were spotted enthusiastically joining in the Mexican waves that flowed through the crowd in Augsburg. Whether or not they called on some divine inspiration for the Norwegians as the game wore on is yet to be confirmed.
Orchestrating the match
It has become a routine as predictable as it is enjoyable to watch: Brazil’s pre-match musical warm-up. As radio-generated samba music accompanied the players’ march through the corridors of the Stadion im Borussia-Park towards the dressing rooms, Marta played the triangle, Cristiane showed off her singing voice, and Aline filmed it all on her video camera. The Guineans, meanwhile, may not be quite as ready to form a band just yet, but they were still able to finish off their own warm-up with a song initiated by midfielder Christelle.
*The future is bright
*If the matches played on 29 June proved anything, it is that experience is not the be-all and end-all in women’s football. Nineteen-year-old Haavi scored a late winning goal for Norway against Equatorial Guinea, while five-time FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Marta was kept surprisingly quiet by precocious Australian defender Caitlin Foord, who at 16 years and 218 days is the competition’s third youngest player.
24 – The number of minutes that the unfortunate Lene Mykjaland spent on the pitch for Norway today. The midfielder came on as a half-time substitute in the match with Equatorial Guinea, but was forced to return to the changing rooms less than half-an-hour later, having taken a knock to the thigh. In doing so, she became the second fastest ‘substituted substitute’ in the history of the tournament, behind category leader Eriko Arakawa, the Japanese forward who lasted just 17 minutes in her country’s third group game in 2007.
"We wanted to take the game to Brazil, to attack them and show that we can compete with the best sides in the world. Tactically and technically Brazil are one of those teams, so in that respect I’m happy." Australia coach Tom Sermanni
*Thursday 30 June 2011
*Canada-France, 18.00 CET, Bochum
Germany-Nigeria, 20.45 CET, Frankfurt
*Have your say
*Do the Brazilians look like serious candidates to lift the FIFA Women’s World Cup this year?