The way the women’s World Cup has started would suggest there are destined to be one or two penalty shoot-outs later in the tournament. Spot-kicks have definitely been one of the main themes after the first round of group fixtures. There has already been seven penalties scored in the first 12 matches, only one short of the record for an entire tournament (excluding penalty shoot-outs), with eight being converted in both 1995 and 2003.
A sign of things to come came in the opening match in Group A. With hosts Canada set to be held to a goalless draw against China, Ukrainian referee Kateryna Monzul adjudged Zhao Rong had fouled Adriana Leon and gave the home team a dubious stoppage time penalty. Captain Christine Sinclair made no mistake to net her 154th international goal and give Canada the ideal start. Decisions on such fine margins put the pressure firmly on China as they next play a Netherlands team that beat New Zealand 1-0 in their debut World Cup match.
Group B looks like being nothing more than a procession for Germany and Norway. The Germans hitting double figures against Ivory Coast, but falling one goal short of the World Cup record victory, their own 11-0 win against Argentina in 2007. Norway could afford to miss a penalty in their 4-0 stroll against Thailand.
Japan made an unconvincing start to their World Cup defence, but managed to grind out a 1-0 victory against Switzerland. Again it was a spot-kick that made the difference, with Aya Miyama holding her nerve to secure the three points from 12 yards. In the other match in Group C, Cameroon trounced Ecuador 6-0 with Gaelle Enganamouit netting a hat-trick. Vanessa Arauz, the South Americans’ 26-year-old head coach will need to instil a bit more discipline in her team. Not only did they have Ligia Moreira sent off, they became the first team to concede three penalties in a World Cup match.
There were goals aplenty in Group D with Nigeria coming back from 2-0 and 3-2 down to draw 3-3 with a Sweden team 28 places above them in the FIFA World Rankings. Favourites United States were given a tough match by Australia before eventually prevailing 3-1 with second-half goals by Christen Press and Megan Rapinoe.
Marta wrote her name into the history books by netting a record 15th World Cup goal in Brazil’s 2-0 win against Korea in Group E. It was her 92nd goal in 93 caps for her country and leaves her just one behind the men’s World Cup record of 16 by Germany’s Miroslav Klose. Few would bet against her passing that tally next against a Spain team who drew 1-1 versus fellow newcomers Costa Rica.
England’s 2015 campaign began as their 2011 World Cup ended, with defeat against France. The 1-0 loss to a Eugenie Le Sommer goal rubbed further salt in English wounds after their quarterfinal penalty shoot-out exit against the French four years ago. One consolation for England is neither Colombia nor Mexico could take advantage, drawing 1-1 in the other match in Group F.
By: Grant Fisken