Equatorial Guinea held 1995 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ winners Norway for 84 minutes in the Group D encounter in Augsburg, but a late goal from Emilie Haavi managed to break their hearts.
Indeed, it was a wonder that the free-flowing game which saw no fewer than 38 attempts on goal – 18 to Norway and 20 to the Guineans – remained goalless for so long.
Many people who arrived at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Stadium, Augsburg were expecting a comfortable victory for Norway, but Eli Landsem’s plans had to be changed prior to kick-off with an injury to Guro Knutsen Mienna.
The loss of the influential defender resulted in a change of system which seemed to disrupt Norway's fluency in the opening 45 minutes, yet they should have arguably been 2-0 up in the opening ten minutes.
Madeleine Giske’s header into the box was only partially cleared by the Equatorial Guinea defence, the ball fell to Emilie Haavi and her low shot hit the base of the post. Isabell Herlovsen then fired over with just the goalkeeper to beat from 12 yards.
However, once their early nerves subsided, the Nzalang Nacional playing in their first FIFA Women’s World Cup game, began to settle in to their stride dominating lengthy periods of the game.
Their heartbeat was their captain, Anonman whose tricks and flicks were well appreciated by the Bavarian crowd. In the 20th minute her prompting led to the best chance of the half; Dulcia forcing a fine save from Ingrid Hjelmseth after the defender had run from deep inside her own half.
The Norway goalkeeper also had to be at her best to turn a 30 yard effort from Anonman around the post for a corner. From their bright opening, the Scandinavians were struggling to create any meaningful attacks.
They had to wait until the 33rd minute for their first shot on goal, with Elise Thorsnes' low shot expertly saved by Miriam. However, Anonman could and perhaps should have made it 1-0 on the stroke of half-time but once again, Hjelmseth was on hand to save.
Both sides made a change at the interval with Laetitia replacing Christelle for Equatorial Guinea and Lene Mykjaland coming on for Giske. The latter almost had an immediate impact when she hit the post just three minutes after coming on.
Herlovsen and Anonman had moments to forget in the 53rd minute when they spurned excellent opportunities to put their side in front, as both fired wide with just the goalkeeper to beat.
Equatorial Guinea survived several scares including a goalmouth scramble in which the ball rebounded off the post as Norway looked to make their pressure count. A flurry of substitutions between the 62nd and 70th minutes interrupted the flow of the game, but when it resumed, it was the Africans who had the better chances.
Once again, Anonman fired wide and from Dorine’s resulting corner they also went close, but no-one was able to provide the finishing touch to her dangerous set-piece.
Haavi and Cecilie Pedersen both went close in the later stages of the game and it was the former who sealed the points six minutes from time when she sidefooted home Leni Larsen Kaurin’s cross.
Player of the match: Ingrid Hjelmseth
photos Janos Schmidt