Spain debuted at the SheBelieves Cup on Thursday and got off to a dream start with a resounding 3-1 victory over Japan at the Exploria Stadium in Orlando.
The newcomers took the lead after just eight minutes when Jennifer Hermoso’s cross-turned-shot was diverted into the back of the net by Alexia Putellas.
Both sides had opportunities to change the score in their favour in the first half. Nothing truly clear cut seemed to materialise.
Just as the game was approaching half-time Mana Iwabuchi came up with an outrageous piece of improvisation. She lobbed Lola Gallardo with a first-time volley whilst on the stretch.Embed from Getty Images
We’re still in the early stages of the competition but it would take something truly spectacular to beat that for goal of the tournament.
However, all of that good work came undone just after the break when Saki Kumagai played a reckless pass to the marked Hina Sugita.
She sold her defensive partner short just 10-yards from the Japan penalty area. Spain’s half-time substitute Lucia Garcia pounced on the centre-back to nick the ball before rounding the keeper to tap into the back of the net regaining the lead for Spain.
Defensive errors then cost Japan once again. They were unable to clear a through ball from Spain and Garcia outmuscled Kumagai to find herself through on goal with the ball at her feet.Embed from Getty Images
In almost a carbon copy of her first goal rounded the keeper once again. It left her with an easy finish to make it 3-1.
That victory means Spain are level on points at the top of the SheBelieves table with USA.
They have given themselves the perfect platform to build on. Especially if they are to contemplate winning the whole tournament in their debut appearance.
They must now face the world champions in their next match. They will certainly have their work cut out for them against the strongest side in the competition.
As for Japan, they face an under-pressure England side looking to bounce back from their first-round defeat to USA. Both sides will have to rely on results going their way elsewhere if they are to maintain their slim hopes of winning the competition for the first time.