World champions Japan opened defense of their Women’s World Cup title with a hard-fought, 1-0 win over Switzerland in Monday’s nightcap at BC Place in Vancouver. The holders, like the hosts, converted the only goal of the opening match from the penalty spot. But unlike Canada who waited for stoppage time, Japan’s goal came in the 29th minute after Swiss goalkeeper Gaelle Thalmann collided with Kozue Ando.
Thalmann was handed a yellow card and Miyama took a deliberate run up to the ball before beating the keeper for the only goal of the night. The drawback was that Ando had to come off a few minutes later as a result of the crash. She was replaced by Yuika Sugasawa and it was the 24-year old Sugasawa who had the best Japanese chance to add insurance when she smacked a shot off the post in the 68th minute.
Switzerland, playing in its inaugural World Cup, made a strong showing in a battle of teams trying to play very similar. Both were content with the ball on the turf most of the night and patiently building up into attacking positions. The Swiss got multiple chances through their playmaking wizard Ramona Bachmann. Just shy of an hour she unleashed a breathtaking run that saw her beat three defenders and the keeper before losing her footing on the goal line trying to cut the ball back. Bachmann later missed a golden opportunity to level the match in the final stages.
Japan coach Norio Sasaki had not revealed his starting goalkeeper until lineups were made public. He went with 24-year old Erina Yamane who earned the clean sheet though not without some drama. Yamane clean dropped an easy catch in the 75th minute and was lucky not to have a Swiss attacker in the area before she was able to recover.
Japan’s Homare Sawa, the Golden Ball winner at the 2011 World Cup, started the match to become the first woman to participate in six World Cups.
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