Japan wins; Mexico, England play to draw
A 30-yard blast from Monica Ocampo gave Mexico a 1-1 draw against England on Monday in Wolfsburg, the biggest surprise so far after two days of the three-week tournament. A superb curling free kick from star player Aya Miyama earlier sent Japan past New Zealand, 2-1, in Bochum.
The United States opens play in the 16-team tournament today, facing North Korea in Dresden in Group C.
The deft scoring touch of Ocampo and Miyama was offset by the play of the goalkeepers for Japan and England that was hardly the stuff of brilliance.
Ocampo’s dipping drive from far out in the 33rd minute was a beauty of a shot. Still, goalie Karen Bardsley plenty of time to react. She trotted slowly to her right corner and put out her hands. It was too late.
England coach Hope Powell said the ball might have swerved, but she was forced to draw an inevitable conclusion: “She should have saved it.”
The goal recalled the blunder at the men’s World Cup last summer when English goalkeeper Robert Green cost England victory in its opener against the United States. That made for a difficult ride in the group stage. Powell hopes the same won’t happen with the women.
“We need to work hard to try and get out of the group,” she said.
Having already shocked the United States in regional qualifying, Mexico now has a realistic chance of reaching the quarterfinals.
Playing in sweltering early evening heat, the Mexicans pushed until the end.
Ocampo’s goal was Mexico’s first at a World Cup in a dozen years, lifting the team after Fara Williams had scored with a fine header in the 21st minute to briefly give England the lead.
“I didn’t like the beginning of it,” Mexico coach Leonardo Cuellar said in assessing the match. “I liked the end.”
After the first round, Japan leads Group B with three points. England and Mexico have one and New Zealand none.
Japan, ranked fourth n the world, did not play like the favorite. The taller New Zealand players put on a physical performance, often smothering the superior skills of Japan.
Yuki Nagasato took a deep pass from Shinobu Ohno as New Zealand goalkeeper Jenny Bindon rushed out, then lobbed the ball over her head into the empty net.
It remained a tight game until Miyama curled a 17-yard free kick over the wall and past Bindon, who looked unsteady all game.
It may not have been the 73,680 sellout crowd of Sunday’s opening game in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, but Bochum (12,538) and Wolfsburg (18,702) featured stadiums well over half full for lots of cheers, ample sunshine, waves in the stands and tense finishes.