Classy goals and close contests mark opening

THE DAY REPLAYED – The FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup is underway and the early evidence is that hard-fought games and evenly-matched teams will be a recurring theme during the tournament. Nigeria are top of Group B after the 2010 runners-up continued their fine form at this level with victory over Korea Republic, while Brazil and Italy exchanged stunning goals before settling for a share of the spoils. Much local focus, however, was on Miyagi as hosts Japan got off to a winning start in the day’s only inflated scoreline, while New Zealand were good value for their opening win against Switzerland.

Results *Group A *Japan 4-1 Mexico New Zealand 2-1 Switzerland

Group B Brazil 1-1 Italy Nigeria 2-0 Korea Republic

Goal of the day *Brazil-Italy, Amanda 92' *The opening day at Japan 2012 witnessed more than its fair share of spectacular goals, notably long-range efforts from Japan’s Kumi Yokoyama and especially Italy’s Elena Linari. However, Brazil’s Amanda topped them all. With her side 1-0 down deep into injury time, the Foz Cataratas defender burst into the penalty area on the left, clipped the ball over a lurking defender with her left foot, controlled it on her chest, before hitting an unstoppable effort with her right foot from an acute Van Basten-like angle.

Memorable moments *Joyous celebrations kick-start tournament A colourful and noisy Opening Ceremony was offered up to fans in Miyagi, which preceded an impressive opening win for the home side against Mexico. Traditional performances of the Tohoku region - a region severely damaged by the earthquake in March last year – demonstrated gratitude to the support offered from around the world, while national team coach Norio Sasaki and some of his Nadeshiko* stars were also introduced to a rapturous crowd.

Birthday cheer It was a memorable day for New Zealand coach Aaron McFarland, who led his team to victory, their first at this level since 2008. The result ended a three-match losing streak for the Kiwis, and all on McFarland’s 40th birthday. Unused New Zealand midfielder Lucy Carter, meanwhile, celebrated her 19th birthday on what was a day of merriment for the Junior Football Ferns. Things were not so rosy for Switzerland, however, who extended their record run of defeats at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup to seven matches.

Loud and proud A somewhat incongruous African flavour was in evidence in Saitama as Nigeria fans turned out in strong numbers to support the Falconets. The team also got into the mood with some high-spirited dancing in the tunnel as they waited to enter the field pre-match. Meanwhile, in the stands loud singing from the Nigerian contingent turned this part of Saitama into a mini-Abuja.

Stat of the day 6 – Rosie White’s bulging CV gained another line with her appearance today ensuring the New Zealand striker became the only player in the history of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup to feature in six FIFA tournaments, while still at this level. The former OFC Player of the Year has played in all four world tournaments, including the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ and, most recently, the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament. White’s goal today against Switzerland means she joins Mexico’s Charlyn Corral in scoring at three FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cups, although Nigeria star Ebere Orji could yet join that exclusive club at Japan 2012.

The words “This was the planned result. We’ve even improved compared to last World Cup and we’ll try to do better than that, which means that we want to do better than second place,” Nigeria coach Okon Edwin

Next up *Monday 20 August (all times are local) Group C *Korea DPR-Norway, Kobe, 16.00 Argentina-Canada, Kobe, 19.00

Group D Ghana-USA, Hiroshima, 16.00 Germany-China PR, Hiroshima, 19.00