|Spain Esther Gonzalez (C) celebrates scoring her team’s third goal / © AFP|
Rampant Spain issued a Women’s World Cup warning on Friday with a 3-0 win over Costa Rica while Switzerland ensured there would be no fairytale debut for the Philippines.
Goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie was meanwhile the hero for Nigeria by saving a penalty to earn them a 0-0 draw with Olympic champions Canada.
Spain’s build-up to the tournament in Australia and New Zealand was clouded by a simmering row involving a group of 15 players who refused to feature under coach Jorge Vilda.
Three eventually returned to the squad for the World Cup and one of them, Aitana Bonmati, was on the scoresheet in Wellington as La Roja launched wave after wave of attacks at the overwhelmed Costa Rican defence.
An own goal put Spain on their way and after Bonmati netted, Esther Gonzalez made it three in a ruthless six-minute first-half spell to kill off Costa Rica in double-quick time.
In truth Spain should have won by many more — Jennifer Hermoso fluffed a first-half penalty — and did not miss their two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas.
Putellas started as a substitute, but ominously for Spain’s rivals for the title, came off the bench for the last 13 minutes, allaying fears about a possible injury. She only returned in April from a serious knee injury.
This World Cup is just two days and five games in, but already there has been a penalty in every game.
In the first match Friday, Nnadozie denied Canada and their record-breaking goalscorer Christine Sinclair from the spot in front of 21,410 fans in Melbourne.
Nnadozie called it a dream come true as both sides took a point in a tight-looking Group B which is topped by Australia following their 1-0 win over Ireland on Thursday, again through a penalty.
|Nigeria’s goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie saves a penalty kick by Canada’s Christine Sinclair / © AFP|
“It was a great thing today that we were able to at least get something and it was a dream come true for me personally,” said the goalkeeper, who was named player of the match.
The 22-year-old Paris FC stopper said she wanted revenge on Sinclair — the all-time top scorer in international football — after conceding against the forward previously.
“When she took the ball, I was like, ‘Okay, it’s Sinclair again’, because the last time we played against them, she scored against me.
“I was very angry, and I told myself, this is the opportunity to make things right.”
– No Philippines fairytale –
The Philippines were beaten 2-0 by Switzerland as their World Cup debut fell flat.
|A fan holds a sign in the stands during match between the Philippines and Switzerland / © AFP|
The tournament minnows thought they had taken the lead in the first half in the New Zealand city of Dunedin but the goal was ruled out for offside in front of 13,711 spectators.
If that was the correct call, the VAR decision which gave the Swiss a penalty on the stroke of half-time was more contentious.
Ramona Bachmann was nevertheless unerring from the spot, sending goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel the wrong way.
The Swiss, ranked 20th in the world to their opponent’s 46th, were good value for their lead and doubled it in the 64th minute when Seraina Piubel slammed in a rebound from close range for a routine win.
Switzerland joined co-hosts New Zealand at the top of Group A on three points.
– US enter fray –
Saturday’s matches see the two favourites in action.
The United States launch their bid for an unprecedented third World Cup crown in a row against Vietnam in Auckland.
European champions England face another tournament minnow in debutants Haiti in Brisbane.
In other Saturday games, China face Denmark and Zambia are up against the 2011 champions Japan.
Megan Rapinoe may not be a first-choice starter for the United States these days but new co-captain Lindsey Horan is banking on the veteran superstar to play a key role nevertheless.
The 38-year-old Rapinoe, a central part of the USA sides that won the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, is at the tournament for the fourth and final time before retiring.
“She is just a different kind of player, she is so intelligent, the way she moves the ball and thinks about the game,” said Horan.
“To send her off on a high would be incredible.”