Japan began the defence of their FIFA Women’s World Cup™ crown with a hard-fought 1-0 win over debutants Switzerland in Vancouver.
Aya Miyama’s first-half penalty gave Norio Sasaki’s side a deserved lead, but Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s team, inspired by the brilliant Ramona Bachmann, gave their illustrious opponents unforeseen problems after the break.
The result sent Japan level on points with Group C leaders Cameroon, who thumped Ecuador 6-0 earlier on Monday.
The first half was a tight affair. Switzerland thrilled an animated crowd with some handsome skills, but struggled to create opportunities.
Japan had a couple of half-chances before finally getting a clear one when Gaelle Thalmann felled Kozue Ando in the box. Captain duly dispatched the penalty into the bottom corner.
On the stroke of half-time, Bachmann’s drive from the edge of the box went narrowly wide, and the same player went close to scoring a sure-fire Goal of the Tournament contender just after the restart. After combining dazzling footwork and determination to get past three outfield opponents and goalkeeper Erina Yamane, however, the Swiss No10 slipped, enabling the Japanese to clear their lines.
The Asians went close to doubling their lead midway through an exciting second period, when Yuika Sugasawa’s shot hit the post.
And though Bachmann continued to torment them with purposeful darts, she fired a fine last-gasp chance over the bar to allow the ladies in blue to hold on for three points.