All the latest from the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand:
Canada overcomes early Ireland goal to nab 3 points
Katie McCabe’s Olimpico goal was not enough to keep Ireland’s World Cup dreams alive in a 2-1 loss to Canada on Wednesday.
Canada now sits on top of Group B after a strong second-half performance earned them their first win after a draw to Nigeria in the opening round. Ireland was knocked out of its first Women’s World with a game to play in the lashing rain of Perth. After taking the lead inside the five-minute mark, the Girls in Green were ultimately overpowered by an experienced Canadian side.
Canada coach Bev Priestman branded Ireland as a “horrible” team to play against due to their physicality and toughness. A day later, McCabe — the Ireland captain — had only one response. She sent a corner kick curling into the Canadian net in the fourth minute, the first-ever goal for Ireland at a Women’s World Cup. McCabe ran to the sideline, her arms outstretched as her teammates jumped on her.
The dream start didn’t last long, however. Canada responded in a confident fashion, getting an equalizer before halftime. A Julia Grosso cross ricocheted off defender Megan Connolly and found the Irish net for an own goal.
The Olympic champions started on the front foot after the break, Adriana Leon weaved her way through the Irish box and toe-poked the ball past Courtney Brosnan. Canada was able to engineer a comeback as the Ireland defense allowed multiple goal chances in the second half. They also held 63% of the possession, holding up the ball in Irish territory for long periods of the match. Canada veteran, Christine Sinclair came close twice to scoring in her sixth world cup, a feat no one has ever achieved.
Brosnan kept Ireland in the game at times as they searched for the equalizing score. The late addition of attacking players like Lily Agg and Amber Barrett could not deliver a goal for the European side. Despite Katie McCabe’s best efforts, charging at the goal against four Canadian defenders, Vera Pauw’s squad eventually ran out of time.
Ireland will face Nigeria and Canada will face hosts Australia on July 31.
Japan 2, Costa Rica 0
Japan recorded a comfortable 2-0 win over Costa Rica on Wednesday. Hikaru Naomoto and Aoba Fujino delivered blows within two minutes of each other in the first half, helping Japan knock Costa Rica out of the tournament in Dunedin.
Missing their all-time leading scorer Raquel ‘Rocky’ Rodríguez until the 64th minute, Las Ticas only managed two shots on target in 90 minutes. Japan, in contrast, had 12 on target and created a total of 24 shot attempts at goal. Mina Tanaka and Saki Kumagai had early chances for Japan, but they eventually broke the seal in the 24’ minute when Naomoto slipped past the Costa Rica defense and sent the ball shooting along the ground and into the net.
Just 120 seconds later, Costa Rica conceded again. This time Fujino swerved around defenders and snuck the ball into the net at the front post, past goalie Daniela Solera.
In the second half, Japan brought the same intensity but Solera did well as Japanese players lined up to have a shot on goal. Their high press in a 3-4-2-1 formation put Costa Rica under immense pressure for 96 minutes. Futoshi Ikeda’s side also left some goals behind, skimming the woodwork on multiple occasions but left Dunedin with three points and a convincing team performance.
The 2011 champions have beaten both Zambia and Costa Rica in their opening two matches in Group C. They are safely through to the Round of 16 but are yet to play Spain who should present a tough challenge for the Nadeshiko on July 31. Costa Rica will play Zambia on July 31.
Spain 5, Zambia 0
Alexia Putellas’ return helped Spain demolish Zambia in a 5-0 victory on Wednesday. The Spaniards brought their World Cup goal tally to eight in two games as they topped Group C in Eden Park. They now enter the Round of 16 with one of the world’s best players back from an ACL injury.
Putellas played a crucial role in the five-goal masterclass, lasting until halftime in her return for her country. She was involved in both first-half goals, assisting Jenni Hermoso for a header in Spain’s second. She also pumped a steady supply of dangerous crosses into the box for La Roja. It was midfielder Teresa Abelleira who opened Spain’s account, as she sent the ball soaring into the top corner of Eunice Sakla’s net before the 10-minute mark.
Four minutes later, Hermoso headed home the first of her brace. Sakla was kept busy for the next half hour, the 21-year-old displayed some impressive shot-stopping but the Spanish attack was relentless. Spain had 13 shots on target compared to Zambia’s two.
The Copper Queens struggled to create scoring opportunities with only 24% of the possession. In the 68th minute, Spain struck again with Alba Redondo gathering a long pass upfield and almost dribbling the ball into the goal. Directly afterward, Hermoso added salt to Zambia’s wounds with a goal from a rebound off the post, putting four between the sides.
With five minutes remaining, the substitute, Redondo added a fifth to close out the deal for Spain. Across the field from one to 11, Spain played an attractive and skillful brand of football, controlling the tempo of each play and leaving Zambia winless in their debut World Cup appearance.
Spain will play Japan and Zambia faces Costa Rica on July 31.