July 3, 2011

Brazil 3, Norway 0

Brazil may have started slow in their match against Norway, but they finished strong in defeating the European squad 3-0 in Group D play on Sunday. Brazil clinched a spot in the quarterfinals and although it is not 100% assured it will be the number one spot, it most likely will be.

It was a doubly bad day for Norway. Not only did they lose the match to Brazil, but they did irreparable harm to their goal differential. Because they lost by three goals to Brazil, they will now have to defeat Australia in their final group stage match to advance to the quarterfinals.

It was definitely Marta's day today. She scored two goals and added an assist on the third. She was the dominant factor in the match and most certainly in the second half. Norway just could not keep up with her pace for the majority of the match.

However, Brazil started very slowly and it appeared that Norway had the initiative for the first 20 minutes of the match. It certainly looked like Norway could give Brazil's three back formation some problems. But what Norway failed to do was create many quality chances. They always seemed on the verge, but never quite got there.

The first goal was just a bit controversial, as Brazil may have gotten away with a foul or possibly two. Emilie Haavi received the ball on the left side about 3o yards out and dribbled toward the Brazilian penalty area. As she did, she was upended by Erika, losing the ball with the Brazilian gaining possession.

Erika started a counterattack with a long ball up the right side. Norwegian defender Nora Holstad Berge had a stride or two lead on Marta, but the great striker reached out and gave Berge a bit of a shove which knocked her to the ground. Marta gained possession deep in Norway's end cut to the center, moving around Maren Mjelde who was faked out and struck a low shot inside the right post to put Brazil up by 1-0.

It was not conclusive how hard the shove was that Marta had given, but it definitely knocked Berge off balance. Some of sold out crowd jeered Marta for the remainder of the first half.

Brazil nearly scored a second on Rosana's long-range shot in the 42nd minute, but Ingrid Hjelmseth pushed the ball over the crossbar.

Norway appeared to have a chance to draw even in the 44th minute as a long free kick was sent into the box. Madeleine Giske first gained control of the ball pushing it toward the goal, but as the ball came loose in front of Andreia, Isabell Herlovsen was ruled offsides.

Things fell apart quickly for the Norwegians in the second half. In startling quickness, Brazil struck for two goals in the opening four minutes to put the game away.

Not even a minute into the 2nd half, Marta took the ball from the center line and dribbled all the way into the left side of the penalty area, drawing several defenders toward her. She then released a pass across to Rosana who finished into the lower left side of the goal. It was Rosana's second goal of this World Cup.

In the 48th minute, a Norwegian clearance was blocked by Brazil, but the ball came to Mjelde and she appeared to have the situation under control. But Mjelde hit a very weak ball back toward her keeper with Cristiane gaining control. Cristiane's shot was blocked, but the ball came to Marta, who calmly moved to her right to place herself directly in front of the keeper and she then punched the ball past Hjelmseth into the goal. Marta showed great patience on the play, putting herself in better position for her shot.

For all intents and purposes, the day was done for Norway. It became apparent that coach Eli Landsem had arrived at the same conclusion when she took Ingvild Stensland out of the match in the 67th minute in order to rest her. Norway did create a few chances in the 2nd half, but none amounted to anything in the end.

Marta nearly had another goal in the 68th minute. She raced past Berge, gained control of the ball in the penalty area, but hesitated a bit long while deciding whether to shoot or pass the ball to Cristiane and she was unable to get a good shot off. It was definitely not a good day for defenders on Sunday.

In the 82nd minute, Elise Thorsnes beat a couple of defenders, weaving her way into the penalty area, but her driven shot was blocked by Daiane before it could get to the goal.

Norway was most dangerous on corner kicks. On two occasions in the last ten minutes, Norway threatened to get one goal back. In the 83rd minute, Cecilie Pedersen was able to get her head on a corner and the ball eventually came to Giske, who put it just over the goal. In the 87th minute, Thorsnes' had her shot blocked over the net off of a corner.

With two wins in hand and a healthy edge in goal differential, it would be very hard to see Brazil finishing anywhere but first in this group. They will face Equatorial Guinea on Wednesday in their last group stage match.

Norway has made things hard on themselves indeed. The loss by three goals now forces them to defeat Australia in a Wednesday showdown, if they are to advance to the quarterfinals.