Dominant Spain crush Costa Rica 3-0 in World Cup group opener
Spain began their Women's World Cup campaign in scintillating fashion by beating Costa Rica 3-0 in their Group C opener on Friday thanks to an own goal and first-half strikes from Aitana Bonmati and Esther Gonzalez at Wellington Regional Stadium.
The teams had played out a draw when they faced each other on their World Cup debuts in 2015 but Spain are now sixth in the women's rankings and it showed in their technical and physical superiority as they scored three times in a six-minute blitz.
Costa Rica goalkeeper Daniela Solera saved a first-half penalty, but Spain were never threatened at the other end and went top of their group ahead of Japan's game against Zambia on Saturday.
Twice Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas was named among Spain's substitutes as she makes her way back to full fitness, but their most-capped player was not needed in the first half as Bonmati and Esther ran riot in Costa Rica's box.
In the pouring rain, Spain dominated possession and pegged Costa Rica back inside their own half right from kickoff, with Athenea del Castillo narrowly firing wide while Ivana Andres saw her header tipped over the bar.
But the relentless pressure finally paid off in the 21st minute when Gonzalez's cross was turned in by Costa Rica's Valeria del Campo.
Only two minutes later Spain quickly regained possession and a fine cutback set up Bonmati, who smartly evaded two defenders to curl home Spain's second.
The Barcelona midfielder had been pulling the strings in the final third for Spain despite a wall of white shirts in the box and she deservedly earned the player of the match award.
Costa Rica could have conceded more if not for the heroics of Solera in goal as she made timely interventions and reflex saves.
However, she could do nothing as Gonzalez scored the third from a rebound off the post.
Switzerland sour Philippines' World Cup debut with 2-0 win
Switzerland made a winning start to their Women's World Cup campaign with a 2-0 victory over debutants Philippines at Dunedin Stadium on Friday, thanks to Ramona Bachmann's first-half penalty and a close-range effort from Seraina Piubel.
Inka Grings' side were awarded a penalty by VAR after midfielder Coumba Sow was caught by a stray boot from Jessika Cowart in the box late in the first half, with forward Bachmann coolly slotting the ball past goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel.
The Philippines, coached by former Matildas manager Alen Stajcic, made history as they became the first team from their country - male or female - to appear at the finals of a global soccer tournament.
And they were denied an early opener when midfielder Katrina Guillou's strike was ruled out for offside.
Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic, Switzerland's top scorer and most capped player, fired over from close range before Bachmann's penalty put them ahead.
Switzerland dominated the second half and deservedly doubled their lead through midfielder Piubel, who smashed home in the 64th minute after McDaniel denied Crnogorcevic and Sow.
Sinclair denied as Nigeria hold Canada to valuable 0-0 draw
Goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie saved a penalty to help Nigeria secure a valuable 0-0 draw against Olympic champions Canada in their Women's World Cup opener on Friday in a result that threw the group wide open.
Nnadozie denied Christine Sinclair from the spot in the 50th minute with a low dive to her left as the Canada skipper missed out on becoming the first player to score in six World Cups in front of 21,000 fans at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.
At the end of a scrappy, bruising contest, Nigeria were down to 10 via a late red card and both teams earned a point to trail Group B leaders Australia by two following the co-hosts' 1-0 win over Ireland on Thursday.
Both sides had their chances but 40-year-old Sinclair, who came off ashen-faced in the 70th minute, was perhaps the most frustrated, having also missed a good opportunity when she fired wide in the ninth minute.
Nigeria, the lowest-ranked team in the group, defended desperately to hold out the Canadians, and a roaring Nnadozie slumped to her knees, pumping her fists in celebration after the final whistle.