Ja­pan, US on track as Africans chal­lenge


Hold­ers Ja­pan and for­mer win­ners the United States got their Women’s World Cup cam­paigns off to strong starts on Mon­day, while Cameroon and Nige­ria warned Africa would field chal­lengers.

Ja­pan grabbed three points in Group C against new­com­ers Switzer­land thanks to cap­tain Aya Miyama’s 29th-minute penalty, while in Group D the United States were given a rough ride be­fore dis­patch­ing Australia 3-1.

But the per­for­mances of two of Africa’s teams — Cameroon and Nige­ria — gave the con­ti­nent hope a day af­ter the hu­mil­i­at­ing 10-0 de­feat of Ivory Coast to Ger­many.

Con­ti­nen­tal cham­pi­ons Nige­ria fought back from two goals down to hold Swe­den 3- 3 in Group D, while Cameroon thrashed fel­low new­com­ers Ecuador 6- 0 in Group C.

“We’re gal­va­nized and ready to make Africa proud,” warned Cameroon coach Enow Ngachu.

Mid­fielder Megan Rapi­noe helped get the 1991 and 1999 win­ners on the win­ning path on front of thou­sands of U.S. fans who trav­eled the short dis­tance over the bor­der to Win­nipeg.

The Amer­i­cans came up against a te­na­cious Aus­tralian side be­fore Rapi­noe’s dou­ble strike on 12 and 78 min­utes and a Chris­ten Press goal on 61 sealed victory.

“A cou­ple of bits of class in the end from Rapi­noe changed the game,” said Australia coach Alen Sta­j­cic.

“I thought we put in a good per­for­mance but it’s not enough. We need to re­group and im­prove for the next game. It’s still a long way to go.”

Co- cap­tain Lisa de Vanna marked her 100th cap for the Matil­das with an equal­izer af­ter 27 min­utes.

Solid goal­keep­ing by Hope Solo kept the U.S. in strong shape.

As it is, Jill El­lis’s side are top of Group D with three points, fol­lowed by Nige­ria and Swe­den, with Australia at the bot­tom.

In the next game on June 12 in Win­nipeg Sta­dium, the United States plays Swe­den with Australia up against Nige­ria.

Low-key Start

Given the goal sprees in the day’s three other games, it was a low-key opener by Asian cham­pi­ons Ja­pan in Van­cou­ver.

The win­ning penalty, awarded af­ter Frank­furt mid­fielder Kozue Ando was fouled in­side the box by Swiss goalie Gaelle Thal­mann, was the only goal of the night at BC Place Sta­dium.

But it was enough to seal all three points for the “Nadeshiko” — Ja­pan’s nick­name and a pink flower sym­bol­iz­ing grace and beauty.

The tie marked the 200th cap for vet­eran Ho­mare Sawa and the 150th for Miyama, who also scored her 37th in­ter­na­tional goal.

“I’m very happy that Sawa could cel­e­brate her 200th game with a win,” said Miyama.

Coach No­rio Sasaki how­ever sub­sti­tuted Sawa in the sec­ond half with young team­mate Yuri Kawa­mura.

“She (Sawa) wasn’t in­jured, but I’m us­ing her in a more pro­tected man­ner,” said Sasaki of the long­time player who had been ham­pered by in­juries.

Young Swiss for­ward Ra­mona Bach­mann was left to rue a string of missed chances which could have given her coun­try a first win.

“She’s the sad­dest girl in the world tonight,” said coach Martina Voss-Teck­len­burg.

Ja­pan next play Cameroon, who are tied with them on top of Group C but ahead on goal dif­fer­ence, as Ecuador and Switzer­land clash for their first points.

In Tues­day’s ac­tion across Canada, su­per­star for­ward Marta takes cen­ter stage as Brazil opens against South Korea in Mon­treal, while Eng­land search for a first win against France since 1974 in Monc­ton.

(Right) Nige­ria #17 Fran­cisca Ordega’s shot goes wide against Swe­den’s goal­keeper Hed­vig Lin­dahl #1 dur­ing the sec­ond half of a FIFA Women’s World Cup soc­cer match in Win­nipeg, Man­i­toba on Mon­day.


(Above) Cameroon’s Gaelle En­ganamouit #17 takes a shot on goal as Ecuador’s Li­gia Mor­eira slides to tackle her dur­ing first-half FIFA Women’s World Cup soc­cer ac­tion in Van­cou­ver, Bri­tish Columbia on Mon­day, June 8.

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