Hinata Miyazawa scored two goals as former champions Japan delivered a dominant performance, defeating Women’s World Cup newcomers Zambia 5-0 in their opening match on Saturday. The display was so impressive that Japan’s coach, Futoshi Ikeda, expressed confidence in his team’s ability to contend for the title in Australia and New Zealand.
Japan, who had won the World Cup in 2011, displayed their superiority over the 77th-ranked Zambia with their exceptional movement and passing, creating numerous scoring opportunities. This remarkable performance will undoubtedly put other strong teams in the tournament on alert.
Three of Japan’s goals came from impressive upfield movements, making it the first time they scored more than twice in a World Cup game since their triumphant tournament in Germany 12 years ago.
Midfielder Hinata Miyazawa opened the scoring in the first half with an assist from Aoba Fujino, giving Japan a lead at halftime in front of 16,111 spectators in Hamilton. Despite Japan’s dominant display in the first half, the scoreline didn’t reflect their complete control of the game. However, Zambia’s defensive resistance crumbled in the second half, allowing Japan to capitalize and score more goals.
Mina Tanaka doubled the lead with a goal from Jun Endo’s cross, finally finding the net after having two earlier strikes disallowed due to belated offside rulings. Tanaka then played a crucial role in setting up Hinata Miyazawa’s second goal, and Jun Endo himself scored the fourth goal for Japan.
In the final minute of stoppage time, substitute Riko Ueki was brought down in the penalty box, leading to a penalty kick. The Zambian goalkeeper Catherine Musonda received her second yellow card and was sent off after committing the foul. Her replacement, Eunice Sakala, made a remarkable save from the penalty spot, but it was ruled out as she moved too early. Riko Ueki made no mistake on her second attempt, securing the fifth goal for Japan.
With this impressive victory, Japan climbed to the top of Group C, alongside Spain, who won their match against Costa Rica 3-0 on Friday.
Despite entering the tournament with high hopes and having defeated Germany in their final warm-up game, the youthful Zambian side failed to create any clear chances during the match. Adding to their challenges, key attacking midfielder Grace Chanda had been ruled out of the tournament due to illness.
Coach Bruce Mwape tried to maintain a positive outlook despite the tough task ahead, as Zambia faces a formidable clash with Spain on Wednesday.