Norway followed a familiar path at the start of its Women's World Cup first-round match against Canada last night at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium. But unlike its inefficient debut last weekend, the Norwegians scored with alarming frequency in the second half and roared to a 7-1 victory before 16,448 spectators.
Gangly striker Ann Kristin Aarones, the leading scorer in the 1995 tournament that Norway won, struck for the first two goals and assisted on the third as part of a clever give-and-go deep in the penalty area to help her team seal a quarterfinal berth from Group C. "In the second half," Norway Coach Per-Mathias Hogmo said, "there was only one team on the field."
Regardless of the outcome of their first-round finale against Japan this weekend, the Norwegians (2-0) will play in one of two quarterfinals Wednesday in San Jose and continue their trek toward a possible showdown with the United States in the July 10 title game.
Canada (0-1-1) must defeat Russia Saturday at Giants Stadium to have a chance at the next stage.
In last night's second game, Sweden (1-1) returned to quarterfinal contention with a 3-1 triumph over Australia (0-1-1) in Group D. Aussie forward Julie Murray, a former McLean resident who started playing soccer in Northern Virginia youth leagues, scored for the second consecutive game, but it wasn't enough to overcome early goals by Sweden's Jane Tornqvist and Hanna Ljungberg, and another by Ljungberg after halftime.
Aarones, 26, did not start in the opening 2-1 victory over Russia because, according to Hogmo, she had a lingering knee injury and virus. Aarones said the virus sidelined her in April only and her knee has given her trouble for two years, but the reason she wasn't in the lineup leading up to the tournament or on Sunday was because, "I wasn't good enough for the team," she said.
Hogmo had planned to insert her in the second half of the opener, but when Russia managed to pull close late, Hogmo didn't want to risk adding another forward. Last night she got the call.
"It was good to be back and score some goals again," said Aarones, her country's second all-time leading scorer. "It's been frustrating. . . . [Last night] wasn't a hard game. There will be much worse games later. I don't know if I'll do as well."
While the 6-foot Aarones dominated the penalty area, her teammates glided around defenders and found gaping space on the attack. Every pass seemed to have a purpose as Norway kept Canada goalkeeper Nicci Wright busy from the start. But once again Norway had trouble converting its chances.
Aarones scored her first goal in the eighth minute on a crisp volley from eight yards, but like Sunday when it outshot Russia 28-6, Norway went scoreless for a long stretch. (Last night, Norway's shooting advantage was 28-7.)
With Norway searching for its scoring touch, Canada tied the match in the 31st minute when its star player, forward Charmaine Hooper, pushed in a loose ball at the six-yard box.
But it took only five minutes for Norway to retake the lead, with Aarones meeting Unni Lehn's precise right-side cross at the near post for a glancing header and her eighth career World Cup goal. The second half was Norway at its finest.
Just four minutes in, Lehn gathered Aarones's simple touch pass and beat Wright to the near side. Five minutes later, playmaker Hege Riise placed an 18-yard free kick over the defensive wall and into the right side of the net as Wright stood almost motionless.
Eight minutes after that, captain Linda Medalen -- a former high-scoring forward who has switched to defense in the late stages of her marvelous career -- scored on a lunging header off a twice-deflected corner kick.
Marianne Pettersen and reserve Solveig Gulbrandsen struck in the final 15 minutes as Norway matched the scoring margin of Brazil's 7-1 rout of Mexico last Saturday. In the 1995 tournament, Norway hammered Canada, 7-0, in a first-round encounter.
In last night's other game, Sweden repeated the fast start it had during a 2-1 loss to China last weekend. Only this time, after Tornqvist soared to head in Malin Andersson's corner kick in the ninth minute, Sweden struck again to stretch its lead. Ljungberg had a vacant net to fill in the 21st minute after Kristin Bengtsson's cross skipped off the left hand of diving goalkeeper Belinda Kitching. Murray pulled Australia close by stealing the ball from Tornqvist and bursting into the penalty area for a shot past goalie Ulrika Karlsson in the 32nd minute.
But midway through the second half, Ljungberg scored her second goal during a moment of Australian confusion. On a bouncing ball headed toward their penalty area, Kitching and defender Sarah Cooper converged but neither made an effort for the ball. Ljungberg stuck her foot between them and poked it into an open net. "When they made it 2-1 we just played on," said Ljungberg, whose team lost at home to Australia in 1997. "It felt like we were supposed to win the game, and we did."
CAPTION: Hege Riise, left, heads the ball away from Canada's Amy Walsh. Defending champion Norway became the first team to make the quarterfinals of the Women's World Cup.
CAPTION: Ann Kristin Aarones celebrates her second goal of first half, which gave Norway a 2-1 lead. Norway broke open game with five goals in second half.
CAPTION: Norway's Unni Lehn kicks ball as Marianne Pettersen nears. Norway had 5 goals in 2nd half.
CAPTION: Ann Kristin Aarones celebrates 2nd goal, which gave Norway 2-1 lead. Norway had 5 goals in second half.
CAPTION: Australia goalie Belinda Kitching can't control ball, which Sweden's Hanna Ljunberg kicks in in 21st minute.
CAPTION: Norway's Unni Lehn gives the ball a boot. "In the second half," Norway Coach Per-Mathias Hogmo said, "there was only one team on the field."
CAPTION: (Photo ran on page A01) Getting Their Kicks
Tone Sovik of Norway waves her flag as Ellicott City's Madelyn Finucane, left, and Mari Rubert cheer during Women's World Cup at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium. In doubleheader, Norway ripped Canada, 7-1, and Sweden topped Australia, 3-1. Story, D1.