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2011 Women’s World Cup Preview – Equatorial Guinea –

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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – Not surprisingly, as one of the smallest countries in Africa, Equatorial Guinea will be making its first-ever appearance in the Women’s World Cup when it squares off with Norway on June 29 in a Group D match.Equatorial Guinea earned a berth in women’s soccer’s biggest event by advancing to the final of the African Women’s Championship in 2010. It was the second-straight appearance in the African final after winning in 2008 by handing Nigeria its only-ever defeat in the event.Equatorial Guinea lost the 2010 final, 4-2, to Nigeria, but appears poised to be a dark horse in the 2011 World Cup in Germany.”With each game, we are learning,” Jean-Paul Mpila, Equatorial Guinea’s old coach, said last year. “You will understand that most of these players are new to international football.”The World Cup will be big test for us, but more importantly, it should be an opportunity for these players to grow and learn more.”The team joins Nigeria as the only two African participants, and unlike its counterparts, Equatorial Guinea is an unknown commodity.Controversy has surrounded the club since it reached the final of the African Championships, with Ghana and Nigeria accusing the team of using men on its roster.The Equatorial Guinea Football Federation called the accusations “totally unfounded” and “evidence of an inferiority complex.” There has been an investigation, but no ruling as of yet.Equatorial Guinea will enter the tournament with nothing to lose based on low expectations, which could make it a tough team to play against. It also plays Australia and Brazil in Group D.As is usually the case with underdog teams, goalkeeper Miriam Paixao Silva will be key to the team’s success in the World Cup. She was arguably the team’s best player in a 3-1 win over South Africa in the semifinal of the African Championship to earn the berth. Although her team lost by two goals to Nigeria in the final, she also put in a strong showing in the game as well.Marcelo Frigerio took over for Mpila, who coached the team through qualifying, earlier this year. Frigerio won his first two matches in charge and hopes to surprise in the World Cup this summer.”This is the biggest opportunity of my career,” the 40-year-old Italian said after being handed the job.PAST ACHIEVEMENTS:– First-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup.

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