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Women’s World Cup: Groups B & C round-up

Photo: Courtesy of FIFA.com

The second day of the Women’s World Cup picked up right where the first left off in front of buzzing German crowds. Japan got an expected win to top the group, and Mexico played England tight to pull off a draw.

Group B

Japan 2 – 1 New Zealand

The scoring started early in this one as Japan’s Nagasato capitalized off a poor turnover. Japan showed high pressure up the middle and forced New Zealand to play too fast. Ohno won the ball and immediately chipped it over the defense where Nagasato found it at the top of the box. With her first touch, the Japanese striker lifted over Bindon, who was well off her line.

NZ answered in the 12th when Percival played a ball in from the right corner. Japanese goalkeeper Kaihori came out for the cross but couldn’t get her hands on it. The ball carried all the way to the far post and an unmarked Hearn put the open header away.

Japan had an easy time moving the ball around and building opportunities even after the NZ goal, including a shot by Sakaguchi off the right goalpost in the 18th. Even when New Zealand was able to win the ball from the Japanese midfield, they were unable to find their forwards, and often gave possession right back before they could go to goal.

The possession evened out a bit in the second half, but neither team had a real good chance on goal until the 68th. Japanese substitute Iwabuchi, who has drawn comparisons to Messi, was fouled right at the top of the box after dribbling between two NZ defenders. Miyama calmly placed the free kick over the top of the wall and into the right upper 90.

NZ’s long ball strategy was ineffective throughout. Their forwards wore themselves out running around for the ball, and then the midfield and defense tired because they were defending for the majority of the game. Japan dominated play and created a number of chances in the offensive third, and should have taken better advantage of those opportunities.

Highlights

England 1 – 1 Mexico

These two teams traded possession for the first ten minutes of the match, as both were pressing and looking to counterattack.Things began to settle down as England started to possess and work the ball through the midfield, as they should since they have Kelly Smith, one of the best midfielders in the world.

England struck in the 21st minute as Carney put a corner kick right near the penalty spot. Williams out-jumped her defender to get her head on the ball and redirect it into the top corner.

After the goal, the English continued to dominate possession but were unable to make the connection for the last pass to get a good chance on goal.

Mexico got on the board in the 33rd on a stunning right-footed strike from Ocampo from about 30 yards out. She took one touch to the inside to give herself some space, then blasted it into the right upper 90, and English goalkeeper Bardsley couldn’t get a hand on it.

The game evened out in the second half, as both teams were pressing for another to go ahead. In the 54th, Yankey put a ball into the box for the English from the left side. Carney headed it from the far post back across the goal to the feet of striker Akulo, who whiffed on the ball. Aluko had a weak second half as she got two other opportunities and was only able to muster weak shots to the keeper. As the lone striker, England needs her to find the back of the net.

Mexico’s striker Dominguez was a pest for the English defense (remind you of any male Mexican striker?). She was constantly on the move, and forced both of the slow English centerbacks to keep a close eye on her.

England had some silly giveaways down the stretch that gave Mexico some runs at goal, earning a free kick in the 87th and a corner in the 92nd. Mexico arned a shot from the 18 which was saved by the face of a diving Ellen White.

A major question for this game was how 16-year-old goalkeeper Santiago would fare for Mexico. She did very well in her first World Cup game, and showed few signs of immaturity. There was very little she could have done to prevent the English goal, and she made two diving saves to her left in the first half, looking very confident coming out to punch away multiple crosses in the second half.

32-year-old Kelly Smith looked very strong in the English midfield. Able to hold the ball, beat a few people in the middle, and then distribute out wide or to the forward; her chip into box for Aluko resulted in a disappointing and weak shot on goal.

Things will get very interesting in Group B in the next set of games. Mexico is playing with a lot of confidence and looked the better team as the game drew on. England’s Kelly Smith was as good as advertised in the English midfield. England will be disappointed, they had some chances to secure the win and were expected to do it.

Highlights

Group B: Next match-ups

Friday, July 1, 2011

Japan – Mexico 9:00 AM

Frankies Pick: Japan will take this one, but it won’t be easy. Look for Japan to dominate possession, but Mexico will counter when they get the opportunity. Japan 2-1.

New Zealand – England 12:15 PM

Frankie’s Pick: England will dominate this one, as NZ will try to play long ball again. England 1-0.

Group C

Sweden 1-0 Colombia

With goalkeeper Yineth Varon suspended indefinitely by FIFA before the match, Sweden pulled together to sneak past first-time World Cup participants Colombia. Striker Jessica Landstrom was on target for the Swedes, who must be happy they earned all three points after watching the impressive North Koreans.

Landstrom had an earlier opportunity that she skied over the bar. In the 13th, a low ball from the left found the striker in the six but she somehow contrived to miss.

Former Independence star Caroline Seger was moving and creating, but her finishers were letting her down. Thourbrune’s service was also top notch, and it was only a matter of time before the Swedes put one past a resilient but overmatched Colombian side.

Coverage of the US-North Korea match here.

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