Japan and Spain dominated a two-tier Group C which, despite only being mathematically decided in the third and final round of fixtures, was all but settled by the second match, when Las Rojitas and the young Nadeshiko both laid down markers with impressive performances.
Venezuela, despite coming from behind to beat New Zealand in their opening match, came up short against the top two, while the Antipodeans showed that they still need to mature as a unit, even though their players did demonstrate flashes of skill at times.
Spain had the good fortune to hit the ground running at Trinidad and Tobago 2010, putting aside visible nerves to overcome Japan 4-1 in their first match. That impressive start settled them, and against New Zealand they put on a masterclass of ball possession and control. Playing with a style typical of Spanish international football at all levels, the Iberians edged a toughly-contested 2-1 win over Venezuela, in a game where clear-cut chances were few and far between.
Japan bounced back impressively in their second and third matches, recovering from their opening-day slip-up to record successive 6-0 victories. Aside from the goalfest, the Japanese players produced the high-quality football they are capable of, built on rapid passing. The revolving front line of Haruna Kawashima, Mai Kyokawa and Mina Tanaka proved that they have the ability to give any defence serious headaches, as did Chika Kato and her dangerous crosses from the right.
Venezuela coach Kenneth Zseremeta had spoken of La Vinotinto’s counter-attacking gameplan, and those tactics worked perfectly in his charges’ first match. In their remaining encounters, however, forwards Ysaura Viso and Joemar Guarecuco found themselves too isolated and received very little service from an under-pressure midfield. For their part, New Zealand certainly exhibited a level of tactical awareness at times during the tournament, but had immense trouble dealing with long balls. They also tended to commit inexplicable individual mistakes that cost the team dearly, as their own coach was forced to recognise.
200 not out
Football always appreciates round numbers, and Spanish forward Paloma Lazaro provided a historically important one during the group phase, scoring the 200th goal of the nascent tournament. It came in the 84th minute of Spain’s final pool match against Venezuela. With the score tied at 1-1, Lazaro escaped her marker in the box to powerfully head Gema Gili’s excellent cross from the left into the back of the net.
0 - The number of yellow cards received by New Zealand’s players during the tournament. While results may not have gone their way, having lost all three matches and conceding 11 goals in the process, their exemplary disciplinary record will provide some crumbs of comfort to Dave Edmondson, coach of the young Football Ferns.
What they said
“We’re not leaving here with our heads down, because we know that for our first appearance at this level, we’ve done pretty well. It’s been a great experience that has allowed our players to develop as footballers. Now we need to keep working and progressing, because we’re not satisfied with just having made it here,” Maria Eugenia Rodriguez Ruiz, Venezuela defender.