THE DAY REPLAYED - In the provincial capital they call the 'City of Abundance', USA and Korea DPR staged a veritable feast of attacking football and gripping excitement, and by sharing four goals they underlined that the FIFA Women's World Cup will showcase the more even nature of the global game. Additional emphasis arrived later in the shape of two more drawn affairs, as England and Japan and then Nigeria and Sweden all put a point on the board.
If the Opening Match left the undeniable impression that Germany are once again the team to beat at China 2007, then day two suggested there will be a host of teams challenging for their crown. Prominent among them look sure to be Korea DPR, who gave USA a mighty scare in Chengdu.
From first to last the Koreans - fast, furious and relentlessly dogged - got in the face of their more illustrious rivals. If they had been slow to talk up their chances, reluctant to say too much about themselves, their first entrance on the China stage revealed them to be an outfit no one will dare take lightly.
They unleashed their first shot early, with just 12 seconds
gone, and were still on the front foot in the dying seconds,
calling Hope Solo into desperate but confident saves to safeguard a
point for the two-time world champions.
If that was a meagre reward for a team who have become used to winning at the FIFA Women's World Cup - this was only the fifth time in 25 matches that victory had eluded them - then they were satisfied with it. The possession rating, 54 per cent to 46 per cent in Korea DPR's favour, showed the dominance of the Asian team, although the Americans had the most shots - 21 to 18.
One of those saw Abby Wambach maintain her astonishing record in
the international arena with her 76th strike in less than 100
matches early in the second half. She was off the field receiving
treatment for a head wound and heard the roars of the crowd as
Korea DPR then forged ahead with two goals in four minutes.
The first owed something to the difficult conditions as the rain lashed down, Kil Son-Hui seeing her shot slip through the goalkeeper's grasp. Four minutes on and substitute Kim Yong-Ae slotted the ball home, but Wambach had rejoined the action in time to see Heather O'Reilly grab an equaliser. It was the first time Korea had registered a draw in their seventh game in the competition.
The afternoon fixture set a standard that the two later games would do well to match but again, there was so much to enjoy for the neutral supporters as the two games built to an exciting climax with late goalscoring drama.
In Shanghai, Japan were delighted by their opening goal, which came from Aya Miyama's hard-driven free-kick, but were then overtaken as Kelly Smith, making her FIFA Women's World Cup debut and tipped by the Chinese legend Sun Wen no less to emerge as the player of the tournament, really went to work inside the last ten minutes, scoring first with her left, then with her right.
However there was no denying the Japanese free-kick specialist and with the clock showing 94 minutes, she lashed the ball home from almost an identical position to her earlier goal.
Nigeria also struck late on to deny Sweden a first-ever win in
an opening fixture. Mind you, the Scandinavians had only ever lost
before so this counts as an improvement. Captain Victoria Svensson,
her country's leading scorer in the 2003 tournament, finally
broke the resistance of the African side's goalkeeper Precious
Dede to put the Swedes in front and then, with eight minutes
remaining, Cynthia Uwak, who like Dede plays her club football in
Sweden, produced the leveller.
Those who thought there would be little between the teams in Group B were not kidding: all have started with a single point.