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Brazil, Japan play to 1-1 draw in opening Tournament of Nations match

(Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports)

(Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports)

Yuka Momiki scored the opening goal in the Tournament of Nations, but a long-distance reply by Camila in the late stages meant Japan and Brazil were left to share the spoils Thursday at CenturyLink Field. Both sides had many more chances to score but some shoddy defending on both sides was rarely exposed in the way of goals.

The first goal ever in Tournament of Nations play materialized in the 63rd minute after Mizuho Sakaguchi sprayed the ball left to Emi Nakajima and Brazil overcommitted to that side. Nakajima diced up Laticia and was able to get off a precision cross to the far post. Nary a Brazilian defender was within 5 yards of Momiki who was able to head it home to give Japan the lead.

The goal scoring sequence was the middle and possibly the cheapest in a string of three quick chances for the Nadasheko. Moments earlier, a ball in hit the post off the head of defender Bruna Benites and came to Mina Tanaka who somehow missed the frame from inside 10 yards with Brazil keeper Barbara scrambling to get back in position.

Four minutes later, Japan keeper Ayaka Yamashita came out to make an aggressive play on a ball and wound up shooting over the top all the way to Sakaguchi. The next ball went left to Momiki and then to Nakajima who walked in on Barbara totally unopposed. Barbara made an aggressive play on it and made the save, and then forced Japan to play it out of bounds.

The equalizer, in the 88th minute, also began with the ball at Yamashita’s feet, but this time it was an errant clearance that went straight to Camila. Given time and space to work the ball into the position she wanted, Camila smashed a shot that was moving away from Yamashita and with incredible spin ricocheted off her hand and in.

Brazil were not without their chances throughout the match. Marta finished the first half running roughshod in transition. In the 33rd minute the five-time FIFA Player of the Year collected a bouncing ball, settled it while beating three Japanese defenders and was able to get a shot on goal that Yamashita made a low save on.  A few minutes later she made a well-timed challenge to win the ball in midfield and drove straight at Japan’s defense before taking a shot that Yamashita was barely able to touch wide.

Tanaka nearly sent Japan to the half with a lead when she was played behind Brazil’s dodgy defense only to have Barbara deny her one-v.-one.

Both teams are back in action Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. Japan will face Australia in a battle of Asian Confederation giants followed by Brazil against nemesis United States.

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