Japan scores easy win over Zambia in FIFA Women's World Cup group matchtext_fields
Hamilton: At Waikato Stadium on Saturday, Japan defeated Zambia 5-0 in their women's World Cup opening. The former champions outclassed Zambia with a fluid exhibition of pass-and-move football.
Hinata Miyazawa scored twice. After having two first-half attempts disallowed by VAR for offside, teammate and fellow forward Mina Tanaka also scored in the second half.
In the 71st minute, winger Jun Endo added the fourth goal, and in stoppage time, after Zambia goalkeeper Catherine Musonda had been sent out after receiving two cautions, replacement Riko Ueki scored the fifth goal from the penalty spot.
Japan lined up in an offensive 3-5-1 style and looked like a squad on a mission from the outset. They were World Cup champions in 2011 and runners-up in 2015.
Prior to Miyazawa's opening goal in the 43rd minute, they had already forced two excellent Musonda saves, hit the post, had a Tanaka goal disallowed, and gotten two more fantastic saves from him.
Aoba Fujino was sent scurrying down the right flank by playmaker Yui Hasegawa, and the winger curled a gorgeous cross into the box, which Miyazawa slammed into the goal.
In the 49th minute, Tanaka had a second goal disallowed for offside, and a couple of minutes later, VAR reversed a penalty that had been given to Japan.
Tanaka, a striker of Thai descent, slipped Endo's cross from the left into the right corner of the net in the 55th minute to score her first goal of note.
In the 62nd minute, Tanaka assisted Miyazawa on her second goal by bringing the ball back from the byline and setting up her teammate for the easiest of finishes.
In the final 20 minutes, the Nadeshiko almost effortlessly created space behind the Zambian defenders, and 19 minutes from the end, a Hasegawa pass found Endo all alone with just Musonda to beat for the game's fourth goal.
Ueki needed two efforts to score the late penalty that resulted in Musonda's dismissal, with replacement goalkeeper Eunice Sakala stopping the first but being assessed a penalty for encroaching.
In their victory over two-time World Cup champions Germany two weeks ago, Zambia's captain Barbra Banda, who scored the game-winning goal, cut an isolated figure up front, as the African team failed to register a single chance on target.
Prior to their second match of the tournament against the Central Americans in Dunedin on Wednesday, Japan and Spain, who defeated Costa Rica 3-0 in Wellington on Friday, are tied at the top of Group C.