Papua New Guinea put in an improved performance against Sweden at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup last night but a 6-0 defeat still puts paid to any chances of progressing past the group stage.
Not that qualification for the knockout stages is the hosts’ true yardstick for progress, with participation in, and hosting of, the global event a once-in-lifetime opportunity to lift the women’s game in Papua New Guinea.
Already, the debutants are showing they are fast learners, playing with far more confidence than in their 9-0 loss to Brazil, stringing several passing movements together to the delight of an animated crowd. Lisa Cole’s charges held the much fancied Swedes to just a two goal lead at the break and it took Sweden until the 72nd minute to score their fourth, which contrasted with Brazil leading 6-0 at half-time in PNG’s opener.
Sweden striker Stina Blackstenius proved the biggest threat for the Oceania side, scoring four goals and nearly breaking the match goal scoring record of five when one of her attempts hit the crossbar. A goal each from substitute Jahanna Kaneryd and Anna Anvergard left the final tally for Sweden at six.
PNG fought until the final whistle, creating a few dangerous opportunities that caught the European side off guard. The closest attempt came from Ramona Padio, who attempted a dipping long-range shot in injury time which just cleared the crossbar.
Goalkeeper Lavina Hola also stood out, pulling off back-to-back saves and keeping the final result in single digits.
Meanwhile, former champions Korea DPR booked a place in the quarterfinals with a 4-2 over Brazil in the group’s other match yesterday. PNG cannot join them in the last eight but still has one more chance to play in front of their home crowd and gain valuable exposure to top class football when they take on the Koreans on Sunday.