Group D: ARGENTINA 0-0 JAPAN
Dogged Argentinian defending secured a surprise point against former winners Japan at the Parc de Princes. In front of the tournament’s biggest crowd since opening night, the South Americans ‘parked the proverbial bus’ on the edge of their penalty area and a toothless Japanese attack simply didn’t do enough to break them down.
The pattern of the game was set early. Argentina offering endeavour without much ambition and Japan knocking the ball around nicely but lacking cutting edge in the final third. The opening 20 minutes was most memorable for Aldana Cometti receiving an elbow in the face from Japan’s Yuika Sugasawa.
Finally, on 26 minutes Sugasawa and Emi Nakajima moved the ball down the right engineering a cross that Vanina Correa could only punch as far as Miura on the edge of the box, but the midfielder fired over.
Five minutes into the second half Kumi Yokoyama resisted the urge to pass in front of the box and tried her luck from 25-yards. Correa parried low to her right and Sugasawa failed to convert the rebound.
Japan seemed to be finding their rhythm which pushed Argentina into virtually a 4-6-0 formation defending their penalty area. Yokoyama and Risa Shimizu worked the ball into the box from the right wing, Sugita left it for Yui Hasegawa, but she sliced the shot off the outside of her left boot.
Buoyed by their resilience Argentina attempted a couple of breakaways led by Estefania Banini and Florencia Bonsegundo. Bosegundo broke into the box but Yamashita dealt with her scuffed shot, before 37-year old substitute Mariela Coronel tried an over ambitious effort that owned more to wasting time than any serious attempt to win the match.
Japan made one last half chance to take all the points in stoppage time. Correa looked as though she would be stranded out of position dealing with Endo’s left wing cross, but did decidedly better on Hasgawa’s shot, getting down smartly to her left.
This is an unexpected score line, one that will delight fans of the Albicelestes while leaving Japan’s to wonder what might have been if they had just tried out some alternative ways of penetrating the Argentinian rear guard. But perhaps the biggest beneficiaries of this result are Scotland, who have arguably got their toughest group match out of the way and will now feel they have a great opportunity to get back into the thick of things.
Player of the match: Estefanía Banini, Argentina (not her kind of game but worked tremendously hard and showed touches of genuine quality)
GROUP E: CANADA 1-0 CAMEROON
Canada opened their World Cup campaign with a hard-fought victory over Cameroon. The Canucks had nearly three quarters of the game’s possession and sixteen attempts on goal, but only centre back Kadeisha Buchanan’s header at the end of the first half separated the sides.
Experienced striker Christine Sinclair was looking to become the oldest player to score at the Women’s World Cup at the age of 35. She had a couple of early sights of goal, but they came to nothing. The match meandered into a midfield battle where Canada looked neat on the ball but couldn’t generate clear cut chances.
Kenneth Heiner-Møller’s side did finally fashion some pressure before half time. Nichelle Prince went close when she got on the end of Allysha Chapman’s cross, but her attempt deflected off a defender and hit the post. They got the breakthrough on 45 minutes from a corner on the right. Janine Beckie drove the ball to the back post and Buchanan arrived completely unmarked to power past Ngo Ndom.
The match continued in much the same vein in the second half with the rain teeming down on a crowd of just over 10,000 in Montpelier. Beckie, Prince and Lawrence looked dangerous on the wings for Canada, but the Indomitable Lionesses defended their penalty area stoutly to prevent further goals. Cameroon Head Coach Alain Djeumfa would have been disappointed, however, that his side squandered several good dead-ball situations to exert some pressure of their own. When they did finally get a corner delivery right on 70 minutes, Claudine Meffometou mistimed her header in an almost carbon copy version of Buchanan’s first half strike.
Canada flattered to deceive with a last-minute flourish. Substitute Deanne Rose combined with Sinclair twice to threaten a second goal, before Schmidt and Sinclair fashioned more mayhem from Beckie’s corner which the Cameroonians had to scramble off the goal line.
Sinclair and co. will be glad to get this one out of the way. The weather was not conducive to playing fast, expansive football but Canada never really looked in trouble against an opponent that made it difficult for them but lacked the wherewithal to grind out a more favourable result.
Player of the Match: Kadeisha Buchanan, Canada (Commanding defensive performance capped with a goal)