PH faces Norway for spot in FIFA Women’s World Cup knockout round

<p><em>(Photo courtesy of Philippine Women's National Football Team Facebook)</em></p>

(Photo courtesy of Philippine Women's National Football Team Facebook)

AUCKLAND – Facing their most menacing foes yet, the upset-conscious Filipinas are excited and unfazed as they tackle the fancied Norway Gresshoppene (The Grasshoppers) Sunday for a coveted place in the next round at the close of Group A play in the FIFA Women’s World Cup at Eden Park here.

Game time is 7 p.m. (3 p.m., PH time).

“It’s a massive game, a massive occasion for us. Playing at a special sporting ground like Eden Park, a hallowed turf,” said Philippine team coach Alen Stajcic at the pre-match conference Friday on playing at the fabled arena popular among rugby and cricket fans worldwide.

The match will coincide with an equally vital clash in Dunedin between host New Zealand and Switzerland, the winner likewise sealing a spot in the last 16.       

“We treat every game the same. I don’t care if we are playing Norway, I don’t care if we are playing America, Myanmar or Hong Kong. Every single game is the same preparation. So it is not really relevant if we are playing life or death tomorrow, or if we need to win or need to draw,” he said. “We go out to win every game.”

Ace defender Jessika Cowart, who joined Stajcic at the briefing, also appreciated the importance of the meeting against a side ranked No. 12 in the world, 34 rungs higher than the Filipinas.

“It’s football, there is 11 of us and 11 of them. There is a ball and we want to score and we want to keep them out of our net,” said Cowart.

“Of course, there are other factors like the world stage, the players we are playing against. Those are all added pressure, but it’s what you make it. How you perceive it. We are going out there as hard as we can, fight with pride, puso (heart),” she stressed. “We will play the game we love and we know and that’s all that matters.”

At the prospect of defending against Norwegian star forwards Ada Hegerberg and Caroline Hansen, she said she is excited “whoever comes down from the field.” 

Besides the match, both coach and player look forward to the Filipino fans who are expected to come to Eden Park in droves.

“We can’t just wait to come out here tomorrow and perform for them one more time and show them the true spirit of our team and perform for them on a world stage, It is just wonderful to see and it is really what is special about our team and about the World Cup,” Stajcic said. (PNA)