Japan leads wide-open Group B after win over Kiwis

The Associated Press
Posted June 27, 2011, at 6:12 p.m.

FRANKFURT, Germany — The women’s World Cup produced wonderful goals and woeful goalkeeping within one summer’s day Monday, leaving the Mexicans with the widest smile.

A 32-meter blast from Monica Ocampo gave Mexico a 1-1 draw against England for the biggest surprise so far after two days of the tournament. Earlier, a superb curling free kick from star player Aya Miyama led Japan to a 2-1 win over New Zealand.

At the same time, the performances by the goalkeepers for Japan and England were such that it seems World Cup host Germany had especially invented a word for it — schadenfreude, or the merriment derived from the misery of others.

But overall, widespread joy remained the prevalent theme in the opening spell of the three-week event, with perfect summer weather splashing sunshine on the pitches to the pleasure of the good-sized crowds filling the stands.

That joy was not to be seen in the English camp, though. Taking a page out of the men’s screenplay at last year’s World Cup in South Africa, the women had a disappointing opener against an outsider, a 1-1 finish and a blundering goalie.

Even though Ocampo’s 33rd-minute long-range, dipping drive was a joy to behold, it gave the hapless Karen Bardsley plenty of time to react. She trotted slowly to her right corner, got out her hands late, and cost England victory.

England coach Hope Powell said the ball might have swerved in the air, but she was also forced to come to one inevitable conclusion — “she should have saved it.”

A stunning blunder by Robert Green cost England victory in its opener against the United States last year, ensuring a difficult ride in progressing out of the group stage.

Powell hopes the same won’t happen with the women.

“We need to work hard to try and get out of the group,” she said.

Bookmaker William Hill immediately pushed England’s World Cup odds out to 33/1 from 20/1.

Having already shocked the United States in regional qualifying, Mexico now has a realistic chance of reaching the quarterfinals. Playing in sweltering early evening heat, the Mexicans pushed till the end for victory.

Ocampo’s goal was Mexico’s first at a World Cup in a dozen years, lifting the team spirit after Fara Williams had scored with a fine header in the 21st minute to briefly give England the lead.

“I didn’t like the beginning of it,” Mexico coach Leonardo Cuellar said of the match, but added: “I liked the end.”

After the first round, Japan leads with three points, England and Mexico have one and New Zealand none. Group B was always going to be open and both games proved it.

As the fourth ranked team in the world, Japan was always going to be the favorite, and New Zealand, 20 places below, the outsiders. It didn’t look that way in Bochum, where the taller New Zealand players put on a physical performance to often smother the superior skills of Japan.

After Yuki Nagasato smartly took a deep pass from Shinobu Ohno as New Zealand goalkeeper Jenny Bindon rushed out, she lobbed the ball over her head into the empty net.

It remained a tight game until Miyama curled a 17-meter free kick over the wall and past Bindon, who looked insecure throughout the match.

It may not have been the 73,680 sellout crowd of Sunday’s opening game in Berlin’s Olympic stadium, but Bochum, with 12,538 fans and Wolfsburg with 18,702, both had their stadiums well over half full for lots of cheers, Mexican waves and nail-biting finishes.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/06/27/sports/japan-leads-wide-open-group-b-after-win-over-kiwis/ printed on July 29, 2014