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Phl wary of ‘wounded’ Norway for crunch World Cup game

Members of the national women’s football team (Photo by Nhac NGUYEN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE)

Alen Stajcic warned his Philippines team to be wary of “wounded” Norway when they clash at the Women’s World Cup on Sunday with qualification for the knockout stage on the line.

The Philippines celebrated their first appearance at a World Cup finals with a stunning 1-0 victory over co-hosts New Zealand on Tuesday.

That result, after a 2-0 defeat to Switzerland on their tournament debut, means they will advance to the last 16 by beating 1995 World Cup winners Norway at Eden Park in Auckland.

The Norwegians are traditional heavyweights in the women’s game but have performed poorly so far, losing 1-0 to the co-hosts and then drawing 0-0 with Switzerland.

They appear to be in disarray with an injury to star striker Ada Hegerberg and player discontent.

“Obviously each team has different issues whether it be physical, mental, social, cultural,” said the Philippines’ Australian coach Stajcic on Saturday.

“I have followed football for 30 years and I know how strong the culture of Norwegian women’s football is.

“I don’t care what’s going on in the camp, I am sure they are going to come out tomorrow and fight for their country.

“The fact they are wounded sometimes means they come out and fight harder to prove everyone wrong.”

Stajcic is hoping to mastermind another famous victory for the 46th-ranked Philippines and take them into the knockout rounds, just like he did with his native Australia in 2015.

“I am really proud of the whole group,” he said.

“Nobody thought we would be alive, we were the underdog and now we go into the last match against a superpower of women’s football historically and knowing we have a chance of progressing to the next round.”

He added: “We treat every game the same, I don’t care if we are playing Norway, America, Myanmar or Hong Kong. Every single game is the same.

“We know we need to win.”

Norway must win to stand a chance of advancing.

But their former Ballon d’Or winner Hegerberg was forced out just minutes before the 0-0 draw with Switzerland after suffering an injury in the warm-up.

Then coach Hege Riise’s decision to drop Caroline Graham Hansen led to the star Barcelona winger claiming she had been shown a lack of respect.

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