Australia keeps WWC hopes alive with win
BOCHUM, Germany -- It was easily the wildest game of this year's Women's World Cup. Australia hung on to beat Equatorial Guinea 3-2 in a match that saw the most total goals in the tournament so far, plus 25 fouls, four yellow cards and a brutal no-call on an obvious handball in the box.
The handball will be a talking point for weeks to come. In the 16th minute, with Australia already up 1-0, Leena Khamis fired a shot that hit the post and caromed back toward the penalty spot. Equatorial Guinea defender Bruna caught the ball near the 6-yard line, well in the field of play. She held it for about a second, dropped it, and the game continued. With Australian players screaming at Hungarian referee Gyoengi Gaal, and even her fellow teammates watching a little stunned, Guinea keeper Miriam punted it back into play.
Australia should have been awarded a penalty kick and Bruna could have even been red-carded for handling the ball in the box.
"Some of the referee's decisions weren't the greatest," Australia midfielder Lisa De Vanna said. "But that's how the game is. We got three points, and that's all that matters."
FIFA match commissioner Karen Espelund of Norway issued a statement after the game but took no questions.
"I have spoken to the referee," she said at a news conference. "[Gaal] expresses she's extremely sorry that she missed that episode."
Australia, for its part, did not complain much after the game about the call. It did, after all, pull out a win and put itself in good position to advance to the quarterfinals (pending Brazil's meeting with Norway). During the game, however, the Aussies were clearly frustrated on the field, especially in the early moments after the referee's mistake. Only five minutes after the play, they surrendered a goal by Anonman to even the match 1-1.
"I think it did [frustrate us] because everyone had no idea what was going on. Our reaction was that it's a handball. It's a penalty, but the referee hasn't given it," Australia midfielder Collette McCallum said after the game.
Equatorial Guinea also did its best to disrupt Australia's quick pace and fast attack with physical play, committing 18 fouls.
Australia was able to get a quick 3-1 lead in the second half behind goals from 17-year-old Emily Van Egmond and second-half substitute De Vanna. De Vanna was one of five starters from the opening game to begin this match on the bench. Australia coach Tom Sermanni has made similar lineup changes in other major tournaments, preferring to keep his team fresh for the later rounds.
His strategy paid off: De Vanna was named player of the match by FIFA, and her fresh legs dictated the pace of the game in the second half.
Equatorial Guinea made things interesting when Anonman scored again in the 83rd minute to make the game 3-2. Anonman's two goals were Equatorial Guinea's first at the tournament, and she became only the second African player to score two goals in a World Cup match.
After two close losses, Equatorial Guinea will now face world No. 3 Brazil, with five-time FIFA Player of the Year Marta, in its final group-stage game Wednesday.
"That's going to be a very difficult match. No doubt about that," Equatorial Guinea coach Marcello Frigerio said. "We want to get a good result from the last match. We thought we could get a win against Norway and against Australia as well. Now, we have a third try."
Australia will also play its next match Wednesday, facing Norway with a chance to move on in the tournament.
"We're still in the competition," Sermanni said. "It was our aim at the start of the tournament to be in a position going into the Norway game to have an opportunity to qualify for the quarterfinals, and we've achieved that today. We're quite happy about that."