Norway 6-0 The Philippines: Grasshoppene come to life to clinch round-of-sixteen spot

After a woeful showing in their opening two fixtures, including a loss to New Zealand and a goalless draw against Switzerland, Norway knew that three points wouldn’t necessarily be enough to rescue a spot in the round-of-sixteen. As for the Philippines, a win against the Grasshoppene would seal progression – but with their Scandinavian opponents so keen to prove themselves on the global stage, that would prove to be easier said than done.

NOR: Mikalsen; T Hansen, Harviken, Mjelde, Bjelde; Reiten, Bøe Risa, Maanum; Haavi, Haug, CG Hansen

PHI: McDaniel; Beard, Coward, Long, Barker; Guillou, Sawicki, Eggesvik, Quezada; Flanigan, Bolden

Having failed to have scored at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup ahead of this match, there were concerns about Norway’s ability to find the back of the net – but those doubts were quickly silenced by Haug in the sixth minute. Maanum sought to tee up Bjelde on the right flank, with the defender delivering a pinpoint cross towards Haug. Despite a tight angle, the forward was able to turn a volleyed effort past McDaniel, rippling the side of the net as the Norwegians burst into a moment of sheer euphoria.

That goal sparked life into the Norwegian side, who truly looked confident in their own ability for the first time in the tournament. Not content with her opening goal, Haug added a second just eleven minutes later after a failed Philippine clearance. Bøe Risa had been granted acres of space on the right flank, allowing her to fire a great delivery toward the far post – where the striker nodded a looping effort over the helpless McDaniel.

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Any rumours of discontentment within the Norwegian camp looked to have been put to bed as the Grasshoppene took a two-goal lead, but Hege Riise’s side continued in search of more in a bid to strengthen their goal difference. Haug looked to be the target of another cross from the right flank, though this time she was only able to direct her headed effort straight into the arms of McDaniel.

Another golden opportunity just before the half-hour mark saw Graham Hansen jink past Beard on the edge of the area, before striving to tee up Haug at the near post. The striker was denied her hat-trick by Long though, as she attempted a spectacular backheel flick reminiscent of Russo’s strike against Sweden at last summer’s European Championships.

Graham Hansen was able to find the third for Norway in the 31st minute, after the Grasshoppene’s continued pressure forced another mistake from the Philippine defence. Graham Hansen was able to beat Quezada to Long’s clearance, turning to create space for herself to launch a long-range effort that rippled the back of the net.

A fourth goal looked imminent as Frida Maanum sought to drive towards the edge of the box before curling an effort on goal – though it was a touch from Cowart that forced McDaniel to produce a save, else there would have been a certain own goal.

Just minutes after play resumed for the second half, a spectacular own goal from Alicia Barker saw Norway further extend their lead. Maanum’s delivery from the right flank was destined for the back post, but as Barker launched a desperate bid to keep Reiten from getting on the receiving end of the cross, the ball bobbled awkwardly off her knee and over the line.

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Haavi looked to net Norway’s fifth of the match mere minutes after, forcing a save from McDaniel – but as Reiten looked to rush for the rebound, she was hurtled to the ground by Sawicki. A penalty was promptly awarded, with Reiten stepping up to the spot to convert with a remarkable composure and precision that sent the ‘keeper the wrong way.

The Philippines were utterly being torn to shreds by this Norwegian side, with Bjelde teeing up Reiten on the edge of the penalty area – though the Chelsea star wasn’t able to complete her brace and instead sent her effort wide of the far post.

Things turned from bad to worse for the Philippines soon after, as Sofia Harrison was shown a straight red card for her reckless studs-up challenge on Bjelde. Less than ten minutes into her substitute appearance, the Philippines had been reduced to ten – with the referee announcing that the player had used ‘excessive force’ in her attempt to win the ball.

Norway continued to apply pressure throughout the closing stages, but looked to fall one step short of finding the sixth goal in Auckland – until Sophie Haug completed her faultless hat-trick deep in stoppage time. Reiten’s cross from the left flank was too high for Engen, but Haug was perfectly placed to whip a header past McDaniel to conclude a comprehensive victory for the Grasshoppene.

Despite looking like sitting ducks after the first two matches, Norway progress to the round-of-sixteen thanks to a resounding win against the Philippines. They finish as runners-up, with Switzerland taking the top spot – while New Zealand and the Philippines bow out.

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