HANGZHOU, China (AFP) - Minnows Australia shocked European power Norway with a late equaliser to hold the former champions to a 1-1 draw at the women's World Cup here Saturday.
Striker Lisa De Vanna scored for the Matildas with seven minutes left after Norway, ranked fourth in the world, struck soon after the start through Ragnhild Gulbrandsen.
Norway, among the favourites to win the fifth World Cup, have won their last three clashes against Australia ranked just 15 in the world.
But the Australians are a resurgent side in China, and won their first World Cup match after 12 years of trying, downing Ghana 4-1 in their opener here.
"I think overall, if you were a neutral person at the game today, I think you would have thought it was a very, very good game of football," Australian coach Tom Sermanni said.
The Matildas now face a crucial match on Wednesday against Canada in an attempt to qualify for the first time for the World Cup quarter-finals.
Canada earlier hammered Ghana 4-0.
Norway, World Cup champions in 1995, are virtually assured of a berth in the knockout stages after winning their first match against Canada 2-1 and with only basement team Ghana left to play.
Norweigan coach Bjarne Berntsen praised his charges for their first half performance, but conceded that Australia, through De Vanna, had the upper hand in the second.
"Considering the 90 minutes, we have to be pleased and we think we are in a very good situation before the last group game," he said.
"As usual, Australia put on De Vanna in the second half, as they normally do, and she proved again that she is one of the best forwards in the world at the moment."
Norway got off to a blistering start with forward Leni Larsen Kaurin crashing through the Australian defence in the fifth minute, before laying off a superb ball to Gulbrandsen who rifled home for her 25th international goal.
Australia came alive after 20 minutes as striker Joanne Burgess charged towards goal, but could not fire over on-rushing goalkeeper Bente Nordby.
Heather Garriock was unlucky several minutes later, her thumping 30-metre shot just tipped over by a diving Nordby.
The Norweigans appeared rattled by the counter attacks, but quickly regrouped and wrestled back control of the first half.
Dynamo De Vanna came off the bench after the break, and immediately attacked the Norweigan goal with fast and furious runs down the left wing that left the Scandinavian defence scrambling.
Both sides were desperately unlucky not to score, Norway's Lene Mykjaaland launching a booming 20-metre kick in the 50th minute that beat goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri, but hit the bar.
Australia should have equalised one minute later, after De Vanna pounced on a loose ball in midfield only to hit the woodwork.
She finally broke through in the 83rd minute, controlling a long ball just inside the area, beating two defenders, and launching a rocket into the corner of the net.
|Coach: T. Sermanni|
for D. Small 46'
for K. Gill 61'
for L. Colthorpe 76'
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