Japan and Spain advance at Women’s World Cup

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Japan and Spain have advanced into the FIFA Women’s World Cup quarterfinals with convincing performances against Norway and Switzerland respectively. Japan walloped Norway 3-1 and Spain thrashed Switzerland 5-1 earlier on Saturday in New Zealand.

Japan’s surprise title charge at the Women’s World Cup gained momentum with a clinical win over Norway to reach the last eight of the global showpiece. The 2011 champions, Japan will face either holder, the United States or Sweden in the quarterfinals and on this evidence, they will take some stopping.

They have won all four games in Australia and New Zealand including a 4-0 thumping of Spain scoring 14 times and conceding only once. The Asians were lucky to score their opening goal after it was deflected by the Norwegian defender into the net.

The Europeans levelled matters in the 19th minute with a powerful header. Japan scored the second goal just after half time from Risa Shimizu after another terrible mistake from the Norwegians. Hinata Miyazawa is also quickly becoming one of the breakout stars of a World Cup which has been full of shocks. The 23-year-old got the third nine minutes from time to seal Norway’s fate in Wellington. She is now the tournament’s top scorer.

In the other match, Spain hammered Switzerland to reach the last eight of the for the first time in their history. Aitana Bonmati played a starring role with a brace and two assists as Spain crushed Switzerland in Auckland.

Bonmati broke the deadlock in the last-16 tie in Auckland in the 4th minute. But her goal was cancelled out by a spectacular own goal from Laia Codina in the 10th minute. Alba Redondo restored Spain’s lead in the 16th minute and Bonmati scored again to make it 3-1 in the 35th minute.

Codina then made up for her error by getting her team’s fourth before the interval and Jennifer Hermoso made it 5-1 in the second half in front of more than 43 000 fans, a new record crowd for a football match in New Zealand. The result was a huge boost to Spain following their 4-0 defeat by Japan in their last group game, and the performance justified coach Jorge Vilda’s decision to leave star player Alexia Putellas out of his starting line-up.

The reigning Ballon d’Or winner is still recovering fitness following a serious knee injury and could yet play a key role later in the tournament but made just a cameo here off the bench. Spain can now look forward to playing in the last eight of the World Cup for the first time when they face the Netherlands or South Africa in Wellington next Friday.