Japan stuns Spain 4-0 to top Group C while Zambia earns first ever Women’s World Cup win

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Japan provided one of the performances of the Women’s World Cup so far to stun Spain 4-0 in Wellington on Monday.

A first-half brace from Hinata Miyazawa either side of a deflected shot from Riko Ueki had Japan 3-0 ahead by the 40th minute as its tactic of catching Spain on the counterattack paid dividends in this Group C match

Despite Spanish pressure and possession, Japan further extended the lead through a late Mina Tanaka goal to close out an impressive win.

By topping the group Japan will now face Norway in the last 16 round of the tournament on Saturday. Spain will play Switzerland on the same day.

Meanwhile in Hamilton, Zambia earned its first ever Women’s World Cup victory thanks to a 3-1 win over Costa Rica.

Lushomo Mweemba scored the country’s first ever goal at the tournament through a delightful volley directly from a corner before Barbra Banda doubled the lead from the penalty spot. Banda’s penalty was the 1,000th Women’s World Cup goal.

Although an error from Zambia goalkeeper Catherine Musonda gave Costa Rica a route back into the game, with Melissa Herrera scoring, Zambia secured a famous victory with Racheal Kundananji wrapping up the evening in fine fashion with her late goal in added time.

Group C wrapped up

Prior to Monday’s game, both Japan and Spain had already booked their slots in the tournament’s knockout stages, with this match to decide who would top Group C.

Japan might have made five changes to the team that had beaten Costa Rica in its previous game, but the Asian side’s impressive tactical discipline and energetic defending restricted any clear openings for Spain, despite the European team dominating possession.

Japan looked dangerous on the counterattack and in the 12th minute, Miyazawa capitalized on a beautifully weighted pass from Jun Endo to race through on goal, slotting the ball past Misa Rodríguez in goal as Spain conceded for the first time at this year’s tournament.

Ueki doubled the Nadeshiko’s lead on the half-hour mark, once again punishing La Roja in a swift counterattack with her deflected effort evading a despairing Rodríguez.

The counterattacking strategy continued to pay dividends for Japan with Miyazawa expertly finishing a few minutes before halftime.

And sespite Spanish pressure, it was Japan who got the next goal, Tanaka adding a fourth to further embarrass the European team.

Japan’s last 16 meeting against Norway in the next round of the tournament will see the 2011 world champion – the Asian side beat the US Women’s National Team in that final – take on the 1995 world champion.

Costa Rica and Zambia entered Monday’s game knowing that although both sides’ qualification hopes had gone, the possibility of a first ever Women’s World Cup win was up for grabs.

Banda scores Zambia's second goal against Costa Rica from the penalty. - Phil Walter/Getty Images
Banda scores Zambia's second goal against Costa Rica from the penalty. - Phil Walter/Getty Images

Mweemba’s exquisite volley in the opening five minutes had the Copper Queens well on their way before Banda – having been fouled in the box by Katherine Alvarado – further extending Zambia’s lead.

Costa Rica ramped up the pressure after the interval and found a route back into the game thanks to a mistake from Musonda, allowing Herrera to score Costa Rica’s first goal at this year’s tournament.

Herrera thought she had brought Costa Rica level when she scored in the 69th minute, only for the offside flag to rule out her effort.

In added time, Kundananji capped off a memorable evening for Zambia, placing the ball past the Costa Rican goalkeeper to send the Zambia fans wild in celebration as their team completed this historic victory.

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