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Australia can end Norway's knockout streak

Jul 5, 2011 - 10:25 PM Leverkusen, Germany (Sports Network) - Norway has reached the knockout stage of every Women's World Cup, advancing to the semifinals in four of the five previous events, but the 1995 champions face an early exit against Australia.

Norway sits third in Group D after the first two rounds of games and must beat Australia at BayArena on Wednesday on the last day of the group stage to avoid being eliminated before the quarterfinals for the first time.

Brazil hammered the two-time finalists, 3-0, on Sunday to seal its spot in the quarterfinals, and leave the Norwegians on the brink. Norway trails Australia on goal differential, and with the teams even on points, a win is required.

Although Norway is not as good as it was in the early years of the tournament, when it was runner-up in '91 in the first event and champion four years later, the country remains one of the better teams on the planet.

But against Brazil, coach Eli Landsem admitted, "It was impossible [to stop Marta]." Marta, the five-time world player of the year, scored two goals and added an assist.

"We simply didn't have the speed that is required. We did everything we could but we were punished for not being as fast as we could have been," he added.

Luckily, there's only one Marta.

But Australia will not be a pushover, either.

Australia defeated Equatorial Guinea in a controversial match, 3-2, on Sunday. Although Leena Khamis, Emily van Egmond and Lisa De Vanna scored, the Aussies should have had a penalty awarded in the first half on an obvious handball.

Equatorial Guinea defender Bruna picked up the ball in the area when the play was still alive, but no call was made by referee Gyoengyi Gaal, or one of her assistants.

Australia's players appealed for the call, but within minutes Genoveva Anonman scored for Equatorial Guinea, and the game was level at 1-1. Van Egmond and De Vanna scored in a three-minute span after half, taking the spotlight off the incredible mistake.

Anonman added another goal in the 83rd, but Australia held on for the win. And after Brazil defeated Norway by three goals, the issue of goal differential in the group - which could have been different if the Aussies got a penalty - was no longer a factor.

Australia followed Norway into the quarterfinals as the second-place team in its group four years ago, and can book a second straight appearance - also the second in club history - at the expense of the Norwegians.

"We are pleased that we won and that we are still in the competition," Aussie boss Tom Sermanni said. "We made the game [against Equatorial Guinea] a little bit more difficult for ourselves than we needed to at times.

"It was a game of contrasts, we played some excellent football and created great chances and at other times we made some very poor mistakes which could take five years off my life expectancy."

Australia can extend its coach's life expectancy with a few more wins - but just one over Norway might do that all by itself.