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2023 Women's World Cup

The Big Story Day 7: Japan defeat Costa Rica, Spain win big over Zambia

Daniela Porcelli / SPP

Day 7 of the FIFA Women’s World Cup saw Japan play Costa Rica, Zambia take on Spain, and Canada play the Republic of Ireland. 

Slept through it and need to know what the big story is? This is what happened on the seventh day of the World Cup.

Your bite-sized recap of Day 7 of the 2023 Women’s World Cup

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Japan 2, Costa Rica 0

The Big Story:  Costa Rica once again conceded multiple goals in a short span during the first half and then saw the game out. Japan looked dangerous but Las Ticas goalkeeper Daniela Solera had nine saves to keep the scoreline at two. The win guaranteed Japan with advance out of Group C, Costa Rica will not.

The Big Moment:  Japan’s attack broke through in the 25th minute when Mina Tanaka found Hikaru Naomoto who had a clear angle at goal after an unsuccessful slide by María Paula Coto.

What it means: In a stark contrast to the start of Costa Rica’s first group match against Spain, Las Ticas didn’t allow an opposition shot until the 7th minute of the match and goalkeeper Daniela Solera wasn’t forced to make a save until the 12th minute. Not to say that Japan wasn’t dangerous early, it was just a combination of adjustments by the Costa Rican defense and the fact that the Japanese attack likes to build into the attack more than the Spanish tendency of pinging the ball around the edges of the box looking for vulnerability.

Japan’s attack still proved problematic for Costa Rica as after the 25th minute goal, just two minutes later a clinical near-post finish by Aoba Fujino put them up 2-0. As against Spain, Costa Rica has shown that their mental reset after a goal still needs work. On the plus side, after the second goal Las Ticas were able to settle into their defense and hold up for the rest of the half without any further damage.

In the 66th minute Daniela Solera came off her line to try to clear a dangerous ball in by Japan, but in the process collided with both a defender and the attacking Japanese player. Although she was down for a little bit and trainers came on to check on her, she was able to continue play. And good news for Portland Thorns fans, Costa Rican midfielder Rocky Rodriguez did get subbed in during the second half and played a solid 30 minutes, her first game time since her MCL sprain in May.

-Taylor Vincent

Spain 5, Zambia 0

The Big Story: Spain quickly squashed any chance for Zambia to get their first World Cup point with two quick goals and consistent pressure that led to additional goals in the second half. The win means Spain will advance to the knockout stages and Zambia is eliminated from contention. The decider between Spain and Japan with determine who finishes first and second in the group, and thus their Round of 16 opponents.

The Big Moment: Spain put the question of their finishing to bed by starting the scoring early with this 10th minute banger by Teresa Abelleira.

What it means: As a reminder, Zambia’s starting goalkeeper, Hazel Nali, was ruled out of the World Cup right before the tournament started with an ACL injury. This led to Catherine Musonda, the backup, starting against Japan in the Copper Queens’ World Cup debut. Unfortunately, Musonda received a red card after earning her second yellow, which meant that tonight Zambia’s third string goalkeeper Eunice Sakala was in goal against Spain—the FIFA ranked sixth team in the world heading into the tournament. 

Zambia definitely grew into the first half and played rather compactly, relying on the offensive game plan of trying to let forward Barbra Banda get in behind the Spanish backline. On the attacking side, Zambia had their first shots of the World Cup, but were still unable to find their first goal. Defensively, things kind of fell apart in the backend of the second half, as Spain increased their lead to five. 

Spain attacked with a lot more purpose in their second group play match compared to the first. Although there were significantly less shots than in their opener, they did a much better job at getting their shots on frame in dangerous places. Until the final 30 minutes, as Zambia had settled into the match, Spain had to continue to adapt in order to find the proper openings to get good shots off, but then the wheels fell off and Spain capitalized. They also utilized their substitutions early in the second half to get some good experience and gametime for the bench players. 

Something to keep an eye on — late in stoppage time Real Madrid forward Athenea del Castillo went down in clear pain from something around her right ankle. She did hobble off the pitch with the help of a trainer but Spain finished the match with 10 as she received treatment.

– Taylor Vincent

Canada 2, Ireland 1

The Big Story: Canada overcame a spectacular early goal from Ireland to get their World Cup back on track with a 2-1 victory Wednesday night in Perth. The Olympic champions became the first team to rally for a win, while Ireland join Costa Rica and Zambia as teams eliminated from contention for the knockout rounds.

The Big Moment:  It was deep in first half stoppage time and Canada were facing a deficit following another sluggish 45 minutes at this World Cup. Canada were knocking the ball around and almost appeared to be content to have the clock run out and regroup from 1-0 down. The ball was played to Julia Grosso down the left side and she was able to get off a cross around the soft defensive coverage from Niamh Fahey. There were multiple players from both teams in the box and the one who touched it was Ireland’s Megan Connolly. Unfortunately for Connolly, the ball took a Canada deflection and went in for an own goal tying the match. From that point forward, Canada were the better side.

What it means:  Canada were looking down and out before the equalizer — and some halftime substitutions including Christine Sinclair, Sophie Schmidt and Shelina Zadorsky. Sinclair came close on multiple occasions to adding to her all-time international goals record and Zadorsky made at least one key defensive stop on a late Irish attack.

Schmidt, though, made the key pass of the match, which was an early second half ball to Adriana Leon. The ball was delivered with pinpoint precision and finished expertly by Leon for her first goal for any team in 2023. Canada was able to keep the pressure on the rest of the night and saw out their first win of the tournament with relative ease.

Canada will finish group play with a challenging task against co-host Australia. Regardless of what happens between Australia and Nigeria on Thursday, a draw will see Canada through to the Round of 16. If Australia defeat Nigeria, the Matildas will clinch a knockout berth which could alter lineups and tactics for Monday’s encounter.

The Irish goal was one to remember. They created some early pressure and won a corner kick after a Lucy Quinn cross went out off goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan. Katie McCabe, the Irish captain, stepped into the corner kick and launched a majestic inswinger that beat Sheridan and curled inside the far post for an ‘Olympico.’ It was the Irish women’s first-ever World Cup goal. Unfortunately, it was not enough and the two losses have them officially eliminated. Ireland can still leave the World Cup with a result when they finish against Nigeria on July 31.

Dan Lauletta

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