Spain and Japan qualify for Women's World Cup last 16

Comfortable wins over Zambia and Costa Rica secure passage

From left: Spain's Ivana Andres, Teresa Abelleira, Jennifer Hermoso and Olga Carmona celebrate their win over Zambia at the Women's World Cup in Auckland. AP
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Jennifer Hermoso and Alba Redondo both scored twice as Spain qualified for the last 16 of the Women's World Cup with a 5-0 win over Zambia on Wednesday, a result that also took Japan into the knockout phase.

The fit-again Alexia Putellas was handed a start by Spain coach Jorge Vilda and she played a part in early goals by Teresa Abelleira and Hermoso at Eden Park.

Substitute Redondo then scored twice in the second half, either side of another Hermoso goal, as Spain cruised to victory.

Reigning Ballon d'Or Putellas, who recently returned from more than nine months out with a serious knee injury, was taken off at half-time, with Vilda looking to preserve his star player for the Group C decider against Japan next Monday.

Hermoso, Spain’s all-time leading scorer, buried a header from a perfect cross from Putellas in the 13th minute. She then gathered a rebound and scored on an empty net in the 70th minute. The goal was initially ruled out for offside, then eventually confirmed after a lengthy review.

Abelleira launched a 58-mph strike from well outside the box in the ninth minute and beat Eunice Sakala to the top side of the net, her second goal for Spain.

Like Hermoso, Redondo also scored twice, in the 69th and 85th minutes. Her first goal was from an impressive run on to a long pass, while her second was a rebound in front of an empty net.

Spain’s attack benefitted from facing Zambia’s third-string goalkeeper. Eunice Sakala started after the first-choice goalie and her backup were injured and received a red card, respectively.

Meanwhile, two goals in two first-half minutes gave Japan a 2-0 win over Costa Rica at the Dunedin Stadium.

The Nadeshiko reprised the effervescent passing game of their opening 5-0 win over Zambia and later progressed to the last 16 for the fourth straight World Cup as Spain also prevailed.

“We did what we needed to do, and we did it well,” said Japan coach Futoshi Ikeda.

“We've prioritised winning points. The players came here with a serious goal in mind and we're all looking towards that same goal.”

Playing through Mina Tanaka in an advanced midfield role rather than playmaker Yui Hasegawa as they had against Zambia, Japan were already well on top before the double blow that knocked the wind out of the Central Americans.

Left winger Hikaru Naomoto struck first in the 25th minute, pouncing on a slip from Maria Paula Coto and storming into the area before stroking the ball into the net past the dive of goalkeeper Daniela Solera.

Two minutes later, teenager Aoba Fujino turned a defender on the right wing, ran directly at goal and beat Solera at her near post from a tight angle.

Costa Rica were barely able to land a blow on their opponents and it looked from then on only a matter of how many goals Japan would rack up.

Costa Rican midfielder Raquel “Rocky” Rodriguez, the star of the team, didn’t come into the game until midway through the second half. She missed her team’s last match against Spain due to an undisclosed injury.

Updated: July 26, 2023, 11:33 AM