Big guns open with victories, Africans shine in the sun

THE DAY REPLAYED – An action-packed, goal-filled matchday three saw wins for both 2011 finalists, while Africa’s two teams in action enjoyed strong showings. USA started their campaign amid strong cross-border support and the Stars and Stripes were forced to work overtime before prevailing 3-1 against Australia, thanks to an inspired two-goal showing from Megan Rapinoe. Holders Japan were less impressive in edging a 1-0 win over new faces Switzerland.

African champions Nigeria played with verve to peg back a slow start and share six goals with Sweden in a classic encounter. Meanwhile, Cameroon shone brightly in hitting six unanswered goals past fellow debutants Ecuador.

Results *Group C *Cameroon 6-0 Ecuador Japan 1-0 Switzerland

Group D Sweden 3-3 Nigeria USA 3-1 Australia

Goal of the day *Sweden 2-1 Nigeria, Ngozi Okobi (50) *Nigeria’s Ngozi Okobi hauled her side back into the contest with an inspired striker’s goal just after half-time. The No13 took a perfect touch on the edge of the penalty area to create room before rifling a low hard shot into the far corner for a desperately needed goal.

Memorable moments Enganamouit’s special day Could it have got any better for Cameroon and their dynamic forward Gaelle Enganamouit? The dynamic No17 helped to her side to a stunning 6-0 win as the west Africans commenced their Women’s World Cup odyssey in style. Enganamouit scored three goals, had a hand in another, earned a penalty and was instrumental in the move which led to the dismissal of Ecuador skipper Ligia Moreira. And if that was not enough, the distinctively blond-haired Enganamouit celebrates her 23rd birthday the day after matchday three.

USA’s home away from home USA enjoyed strong support in their 3-1 opening win over Australia, with a large contingent of Stars and Stripes fans on hand, including the famous American Outlaws supporter group. It was perhaps little surprise with Winnipeg only some 100 kilometres from the US border. So too, it was a reunion of sorts on the field with the Matildas boasting four current and three former National Women’s Soccer League players in their ranks, with only Canada and Mexico fielding more players in the US professional league.

Super Falcons colourful flight Nigeria brought a dash of trademark colour and no little quality to Winnipeg for their opener against traditional European women’s football aristocrats Sweden. There was a solid contingent of green-clad fans as always seems to be the case wherever the Nigerians play around the world. And there was delirium in the stands and on the sidelines when the Super Falcons twice conjured an equaliser, and a similar outbreak of joy from the players at the final whistle. Nigeria’s powerful displays over recent years at youth level came to prominence too with graduates of previous FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup campaigns - Asisat Oshoala, Ngozi Okobi and Francisca Ordega – all on the scoresheet.

Bachmann’s near misses Switzerland star forward Ramona Bachmann came within a whisker of scoring her nation’s first FIFA Women’s World Cup™ goal on more than one occasion. Based in Sweden alongside Brazilian superstar Marta, Bachmann most notably brought a dash of South American flair with a mazy second-half run from halfway reminiscent of Diego Maradona in his pomp, one that only ended when she failed to round the goalkeeper.

The stat 3 – Sweden’s Linda Sembrant needed just three minutes after entering the fray before finding the net for a crucial third goal against Nigeria, equalling the tournament record set by Pia Wunderlich for Germany against Russia at USA 2003. Three was also the magic number in Vancouver as Cameroon became the first nation to score a trio of penalties in a single FIFA Women’s World Cup match.

The words “A couple bits of class in the end from Rapinoe changed the game. I thought we put in a good performance but it’s not enough. We need to regroup and improve for the next game…There is still a long way to go.” Australia coach Alen Stajcic who briefly coached USA’s two-goal star Megan Rapinoe at Sydney FC.

Next matchday *Tuesday 9 June* Group E Spain-Costa Rica (Olympic Stadium, Montreal, 16.00) Brazil-Korea Republic (Olympic Stadium, Montreal, 19.00)

Group F France-England (Moncton Stadium, Moncton, 14.00) Colombia-Mexico (Moncton Stadium, Moncton, 17.00)

All times local