Women’s World Cup PIX: Spain, Japan secure vital wins

Five-star Spain cruise into World Cup knockouts with thumping win over Zambia

Spain underlined their credentials as pre-tournament favourites when they became one of the first teams to seal qualification for the Women’s World Cup knockouts with a 5-0 win over debutants Zambia in their Group C encounter on Wednesday.

Teresa Abelleira opened the scoring with a stunning long-range effort while Jennifer Hermoso and Alba Redondo scored twice to give Spain their second victory, which also assured Japan of last-16 qualification after they beat Costa Rica 2-0.

Both Spain and Japan have six points and will play each other on Monday for top spot in the group while Zambia and Costa Rica – both eliminated and with no points – vie for third.

“Even though we scored five, we looked for a sixth. That’s the ambition I like to see in the team,” Spain coach Jorge Vilda told reporters.

Spain were given a boost ahead of the game when Vilda named midfielder Alexia Putellas in the starting lineup and the twice Ballon d’Or winner, having fully recovered from injury, was actively involved in buildup play from the start.

Abelleira settled any opening nerves with the fastest goal of the tournament when she picked up the ball after an intricate passing move in the ninth minute and fired a shot from long range that rocketed into the top corner.

Four minutes later, Hermoso marked her 100th appearance for Spain with an easy header at the far post after Zambia failed to defend a cross from Putellas.

Vilda substituted Putellas, Ona Batlle and Salma Paralluelo at halftime but Spain continued to dominate.

Zambia goalkeeper Eunice Sakala, in the team after Catherine Musonda was sent off in their group opener, made several saves but she was left stranded when Redondo was put through on goal as the forward rounded the 21-year-old keeper to make it 3-0.


Hermoso, playing in her third World Cup, then grabbed her second — and 50th for Spain — when she pounced on a rebound off the post to fire home.

The goal was awarded after a VAR review and following some confusion over the referee’s initial announcement that it was ruled out for offside.

“No goal! No offside,” referee Jeong Oh-Hyeon said before correcting herself as a bewildered Spain looked on before realising it had been awarded.

“Mentally and physically I’m in a very good spot,” Hermoso, 33, said. “I’m enjoying football, I feel lucky to defend this shirt and my country.”

Redondo then beat the offside trap late in the game to score Spain’s fifth, also awarded after a VAR review when the assistant referee flagged for offside.

Zambia had their chances on the counter-attack but failed to test Misa Rodriguez in Spain’s goal with a number of wayward shots.

Japan down Costa Rica to put one foot in last 16

Two goals in two first-half minutes gave Japan a 2-0 win over Costa Rica at Dunedin Stadium on Wednesday to all but secure the 2011 champions a spot in the knockout rounds of the Women’s World Cup.

The Nadeshiko reprised the effervescent passing game of their opening 5-0 win over Zambia and will progress to the last 16 for the fourth straight World Cup if Spain, as expected, beat the African side in Wednesday’s later Group C game in Auckland.

Playing through Mina Tanaka in an advanced midfield role rather than playmaker Yui Hasegawa as they had against Zambia, Japan were already well in the ascendant before the double blow that knocked the stuffing out of the Central Americans.

Left winger Hikaru Naomoto struck first in the 25th minute, pouncing on a slip from Maria Paula Coto and storming into the area before stroking the ball into the net past the dive of goalkeeper Daniela Solera.

Two minutes later, teenager Aoba Fujino turned a defender on the right wing, ran directly at goal and beat Solera at her near post from a tight angle.

Costa Rica, who were beaten 3-0 by Spain in their opener, were barely able to land a blow on their opponents and it looked from then on only a matter of how many goals Japan would rack up.

Despite having 25 attempts on goal, however, Japan were unable to add to their tally – a shortcoming that might concern Ikeda with tougher challenges lying ahead.

Japan face Spain in Wellington on Monday in a match that will almost certainly decide which of the two sides top the group, while Costa Rica – still seeking their first World Cup win – will take on Zambia in Hamilton at the same time.

Costa Rica coach Amelia Valverde, who blamed lapses of concentration for the two goals, was asked whether it was time to bring an end to her eight-year reign.

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