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Filipinas stay focused against crumbling Norwegians

Alen Stajcic

The national women’s football team is blocking all outside noises and keeping its focus heading into a very crucial match against Norway in the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Auckland, New Zealand.

Filipinas head coach Alen Stajcic, in fact, reportedly moved the media availability session from Thursday to Friday and ordered a closed-door training to make sure that nobody will get distracted ahead of their important battle against the Norwegians on Sunday at Eden Park.

Based on Group A standings, the Philippines has three points with a 1-0-1 win-draw-loss record following its 0-2 setback to Switzerland and 1-0 victory over New Zealand in the preliminaries of this prestigious 32-nation conclave.

The Norwegians, for their part, have one point after suffering a 0-1 loss to the Kiwis and 0-0 stalemate with the Swiss.

Trouble, however, is brewing at the Norwegian camp as star striker Ada Hegerberg, who plays for Lyon and winner of the inaugural Ballon d’Or Feminin in 2018, shockingly rushed to the dugout a few minutes before kickoff against the Swiss.

In a social media post, Hegerberg revealed that she felt discomfort right after the singing of the national anthem so she decided to seek immediate treatment.

The team’s medical staff, however, advised her not to take any risk, reducing her into a mere spectator during their crucial game against the Swiss.

“I felt discomfort when sprinting right after the anthems,” said the 28-year-old superstar who has been campaigning for Norway since for the past 13 years.

“We decided with the staff that no risk should be taken and no subs should be wasted in such an important game for us, and we all trusted Sophie (Roman Haug), Karina (Saevik) and the team to do the job which they did. We move on.”

Aside from Hegerberg’s last-minute departure, Caroline Graham Jansen also expressed disappointment when their coach, Hega Riise, dropped her from the starting roster during their match against the Swiss.

“I really feel like I’ve been dragged along for a whole year,” the 28-year-old Graham Hansen told Norwegian broadcaster Viaplay after the game.

“People talk all the time about ‘standing together as a team’ and ‘standing together as a nation.’”

“It is not true that you should get anything for free in this life, but I thought I had earned a certain amount of respect.”

But despite the cracks that are starting to surface at the Norwegian camp, Stajcic refused to take them lightly, saying that they remain one of the best teams in the world.

“We’re playing one of the best teams in the world in Norway with Ballon d’Or winners and players playing for Barcelona in Graham Hansen,” Stajcic said.

“That’s such a monumental task for us to come up against them, and especially when it’s the third game in a week, or just over a week.”

The Norwegians boast players who are coming off successful seasons with their respective clubs in Europe.

Midfielders Graham Hansen and Ingrid Syrstad Engen were part of this season’s Barcelona squad that won the Liga F and UEFA Women’s Champions League trophies while forward Román Haug and midfielder Emilie Haavi helped AS Roma capture the Serie A Women’s title this year in Italy.

Defender Maren Mjelde of Chelsea secured this year’s Women’s Supre League while international teammate Tuva Hansen captured the Frauen-Bundesliga title with Bayern Munich.

Sarina Bolden, who scored the Philippines’ first-ever World Cup goal, said the team is ready to take on Norway despite the odds.

“We are definitely looking forward to play Norway. We will do our best and I think anything can happen and we are looking to get a win for the next one and create more history and make it to the knockout round,” Bolden said.

Riise welcomes the challenge as they hope to make it into the knockout stages and do better than their quarterfinal exit in 2019 where they were blanked by England, 3-0.

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