Sports, Cricket

Spain hammer Switzerland, Japan shine against Norway

Published : 05 Aug 2023 09:19 PM

Spain roared to the quarter-finals of the Women's World Cup for the first time in their history after thrashing Switzerland 5-1 at Eden Park, Auckland on Saturday.

Aitana Bonmati struck twice while Alba Redondo, Laia Codina and Jennifer Hermoso were also joined the celebration as Spain set up a last-eight tie against the South Africa.

Spain came into the game against Switzerland with a point to prove and clearly rankled after their 4-0 loss to Japan in the group stage, they wasted little time in showing they knew what to do with the ball as Aitana Bonmati scored inside five minutes.

There was a glimmer of hope for Switzerland six minutes later as a loose backpass from Spain defender Laia Codina skimmed past her goalkeeper Cata Coll and rolled into the net. Without an attack in the game, Switzerland had equalised.

It was shortlived though, as Alba Redondo glanced a header into the bottom corner to restore Spain's lead and Bonmati fired a second beyond Swiss keeper Gaëlle Thalmann. The rout was completed just before the break when Codina atoned for her earlier error and slipped a low shot home after a corner, while the game was summed up at half-time not by the 4-1 scoreline, but by Spain's 18 shots compared to Switzerland's 0.

With strong individual performances covering the lack of ingrained cohesion across the Spain team, the second half brought more attack vs. defence before Jenni Hermoso curled the ball around Thalmann to make it 5-1 with 20 minutes to go.

It was all too easy to find holes in the Swiss defence and it was a poor performance from a team still trying to find its feet under new coach, Inka Grings. Spain may have answered their critics with an attacking masterclass, but they will need to show consistent performances and tighten up their pliant defence if they want to go all the way.  

Hinata Miyazawa scored one and made another as Japan beat Norway 3-1 at Wellington Regional Stadium to book their place in the quarterfinals. The tournament's top scorer created the opener, which was turned into her own net by Ingrid Engen, and then put the seal on the win late on with her fifth goal of the finals. Prior to Miyazawa's winner, Norway had equalised through a brilliant Guru Reiten header only for Japan to retake the lead through Risa Shimizu at the start of the second half.

Japan's perfect group stage, including a brutally efficient 4-0 win over Spain, has seen them emerge as one of the favourites to win the World Cup. This victory will do little to silence the noise around them, even as coach Futoshi Ikeda tried to insist on a game-by-game mentality. They were far too good for Norway from the start, although their opening goal was fortunate, Engen deflecting Miyazawa's cross past goalkeeper Aurora Mikalsen.

Norway levelled with their first real attack after 20 minutes. Caroline Graham Hansen carried the ball forward skilfully, feeding Vilde Boe Risa, whose cross was converted by Retien. Rather than prove a turning point, though, it just led to more Japan pressure. With the majority of the 33,042 crowd supporting Japan, the Cake Tin, as the stadium is known, erupted when an intense start to the second half deservedly led to Shimizu goal, although a deflection was needed off the unfortunate Engen once again.

Ada Hegerberg, a fitness doubt for the game, came on for the final 20 minutes as Norway pushed on with little to lose. They had bounced back from losing the opening game to hosts New Zealand to reach this stage but there was to be no comeback here. With spaces opening up, Japan took advantage, Miyazawa beating the offside trap and finishing with class to seal what was a fairly comfortable win in the end for the Nadeshiko. 

Next up will be a huge clash against either Sweden or the United States. And a massive test of Japan's ability to win this tournament.