My personal blog on Scottish Women's Football
Group A kicked the tournament off, and with the involvement of the hosts Canada, the spotlight was firmly on it.
Canada took on China in the opener with history stacked in the favour of an upset. China had never lost their opening World Cup fixture whilst Canada had never won theirs – in fact, the hosts had lost all but one. A Canadian record crowd of 53,058 (the most for either a men’s or women’s soccer game) watched a tense encounter. And when it looked like the game was going to end in a boring 0-0 draw, there was late drama. Zhao Rong is adjudged to have elbowed Adriana Leon and a fortunate penalty was awarded. Captain Christine Sinclair stepped up and converted to sent the home crowd into jubilation.
The other game on Day 1 saw New Zealand take on debutants Netherlands. New Zealand was looking for their first World Cup win in their tenth match, whilst Netherlands were looking to become the first debutants to win their first ever match since England in the 1995 competition. All eyes were on Dutch striker Vivienne Miedema who was the top scorer in the qualification campaigns with 16 goals, but it was another forward who grabbed the headlines – Lieke Martens who scored a wonderful 20-yard curling effort to secure a 1-0 victory.
The second round of matches in Group A began with China playing Netherlands. China knew they had to win to keep their chances of qualification alive, whilst the Netherlands knew a win would see them reach the Last 16. China dominated the game, but it looked like they would be frustrated with a 0-0 draw until the 91st minute when they scored their winner. Ma Jun’s delightful ball played Wang Lisi who prodded the ball past the hesitant keeper.
New Zealand then took on Canada which ended in a 0-0 draw, although New Zealand had the best chance to win it. In the 32nd minute, the referee decided that Allysha Chapman had brought down Hannah Wilkinson in the box, and awarded the penalty. Amber Hearn placed the penalty down the middle, but the power caused the ball to smash off the crossbar.
The group deciders saw all four teams having a chance of qualification. New Zealand (in 4th) knew they had to win, 3rd placed Netherlands and 2nd placed China both knew a draw would be enough, but a win could see them win the group. Canada knew a draw would be enough to go through, but a win would secure their place as group winners.
Canada started strongly against Netherlands and took the lead in the 10th minute through Ashley Lawrence, her first senior international goal. However, they were made to pay for not taking their chances as Kirsten van de Ven scored an 87th-minute equaliser. China and New Zealand played out a topsy-turvy entertaining game. New Zealand took the lead when Rebekah Stott scored from a corner, before China were wrongly awarded a penalty for handball – Wang Lisi’s shot was deemed to have hit Betsy Hassett’s arm, but the replays clearly showed it hit her chest. Wang Lisi then converted the penalty. China then took the lead through Wang Shanshan’s brave header before New Zealand almost immediately equalised through Hannah Wilkson. Try as they may, New Zealand could not find the winner they needed.
CANADA vs Switzerland
CHINA vs Cameroon
Japan vs NETHERLANDS