x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Norway women want winning start to World Cup

The 1995 world champions will have all the pressure on them as they open their campaign with a Group D clash against debutantes Equatorial Guinea.

Norway, the 1995 world champions, will have all the pressure on them as they open their campaign with a Group D clash against debutantes Equatorial Guinea today.

Norway have never failed to reach the World Cup quarter-finals, and know they can ill afford a defeat to the 2008 African champions with the likes of Brazil and Australia still to come.

"We know that Equatorial Guinea are physically strong, but we need to begin the tournament with a win," Ingvild Stensland, the Norway captain, said.

Equatorial Guinea have nothing to lose in their first ever World Cup match, but their build-up has been marred in controversy.

Jade Boho was suspended yesterday over eligibility issues. The striker reportedly has played for Spain within the past five years and has been provisionally suspended from all football for two months.

Marcelo Frigerio's team, who finished second in the 2010 African Championship to qualify for Germany, were still trying to get past the controversy of sisters Salimata and Bilguisa Simpore being kept off the team, because they are believed to be men.

Salimata was also accused of having played for both Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast before.

Complaints for the African confederation to investigate the gender of the sisters were made by Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa and even Group D opponents Australia had also raised concerns about the Equatorial Guinea squad.

Genoveva Anonma, who was also caught up in gender question row but remained as captain, said the team hope to use the tournament to improve their careers.

"I came here [to Germany] to improve my game a bit because playing in Africa isn't the same as playing in Europe,"said Anonma, who was top scorer at German club FF USV Jena last season and secured a move to Champions League finalists Turbine Potsdam.

In Group D's other game, Brazil, one of the World Cup favourites along with Germany and the United States, take on Australia.

Despite boasting star players such as Marta and Cristiane, Brazil's women's team have consistently failed to live up to their potential.

The five-time South American champions' best result has been a runner-up spot in China four years ago behind Germany.

Marta, the five-time Fifa World Player of the Year, believes this will be Brazil's year. "It's time for us to add our name to the list of winners in this competition," she said.