Four years ago, Japan overcame the United States to capture their first Women's World Cup. Today, they began the true defence of their title. And while they did not impress, they were able to get all three points. We don't know yet whether Switzerland raised their game to meet the level of their opponents. We'll have a better idea after Friday's match with Ecuador. But for now, Group CC appears to be wide open. Cameroon have the clear goal advantage thanks to their six nil win over Ecuador, but Japan have three points as well, and Switzerland look quite capable of being one of the third place sides to qualify for the knockout phase.
As we saw in October, Japan enjoys tremendous support in these parts. In tournaments such as these, one side is invariably designated as the home side, but at BC Place on Monday night, it was true. Nisshōki, the flag of Japan, were all around the stadium, which went nicely with the red and white facelift that BC Place has been given for the tournament.
The Swiss had the slightest of advantages in terms of possession, finishing with fifty-two percent, but they enjoyed a surprising lead in attacks, mustering sixty-eight to Japan's fifty-eight. But on the whole, this was a close match. If the Swiss can maintain the level of intensity they played at tonight, they could be a dark horse candidate.
The actual difference, was what can best be described as a dubious penalty. With Ando Kozue making a run on goal, Gaëlle Thalmann came out to challenge her. Thalmann made the save, but the pair clashed with both needing treatment. Once she was up, Thalmann was issued a caution and Japan were awarded with a penalty kick.
Miyama Aya took about as good a penalty as you will ever see. It was perfectly aimed, powerful, and Thalmann had no chance of stopping it. But should it have been awarded? We think not. But we have the benefit of video replay. The referee did not.
Based on the way these two sides played, a draw would have been the fairest result. But instead Japan took all the spoils. They're still in control of their own destiny. Switzerland will now have to play catchup. A win over Ecuador on Friday would be a good start.
The late match, waged between Japan's Nadeshiko and Cameroon's Indomitable Lionesses, could prove to be the match of the group. It's no coincidence that Japan are one of the favourites of the tournament. But the Indomitable Lionesses are have to be brimming with confidence thanks to their emphatic win over La Tricolour.
But while Gaelle Enganamouit was able to bully the Ecuadorians, Japan have a side that has both quality and experience. And if that's not enough, then there's always their 1.87 metre, 6'2", goalkeeper Yamane Erina. Thirty-eight times, Switzerland put her under pressure, made her organise the defence, or deal with a dangerous attack. And thirty-eight times, the defence stood tall.
Join us as we continue our coverage of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup.