Former world champions Norway defeated the Philippines with ease

 Norway, a former world champion, rediscovered their form and ferocity in the nick of time, hammering the Philippines to reach the last 16 of the 2023 Fifa Women's World Cup. After failing to win in their opening two games and with star Caroline Graham Hansen criticizing the decision to leave her out of the side, Norway's faltering team was in serious danger of finishing bottom of a group they were expected to breeze through. However, with Hansen restored to the side and the bit between her teeth in Auckland's Eden Park, the Grasshoppers tore into their poor opponents to get the win that sees them finish second in Group A and sends the Philippines home. Haug got the ball rolling in just the sixth minute courtesy of a neatly taken back-post volley before doubling her and her side's tally 11 minutes later via a looping header. Hansen underlined her importance with the third, scoring with a superb low shot from range, a key goal that gave Norway complete control of their fate, regardless of the scoreline in the other final group game between Switzerland and co-hosts New Zealand. Norway then put the outcome completely to bed with two goals early in the second half - a bundled own goal from the unfortunate Alicia Barker and a Guro Reiten penalty. The Philippines' woes were compounded when substitute Sofia Harrison was sent off less than 10 minutes after coming on following a VAR review on a late challenge on Thea Bjelde. In the middle of 11 added minutes, Haug completed her treble with another header and could have had a fourth but steered a sliding effort against the post. Norway will now face the winner of Group C - either Spain or Japan - in the last 16 in Wellington on 5 August. 

Norway came into this match having failed to get the ball in the net in their two previous games, with an opening-game defeat and second-game draw leaving them under serious threat of going out before the knockout rounds of a World Cup for only the second time. Rumours of disharmony in their camp had played out when Hansen went public with her criticism following the decision to bench her for the draw with Switzerland. Norway came out after the break with fresh vigour, with the Philippines defending giving them the cushion and comfort they craved. Barker bundled into her own net, Jaclyn Sawicki clattered Reiten in the box for the penalty, and Harrison flung a late boot into Bjelde's shin to make it 11 v 10. The icing on the cake came courtesy of Haug, who completed her hat-trick in a lengthy period of injury time, becoming the second player to net a treble at this World Cup after Ary Borges for Brazil against Panama. Norway can now look towards the last 16 with renewed belief and the hope that Haug, Hansen, and Rieter can replicate their displays here and Hegerberg can return to further boost their chances.


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