Japan thrash Spain to book place in last 16 of World Cup as Zambia clinch first win

Japanese, ranked 11th, send out warning to tournament rivals with stunning victory

Hinata Miyazawa, second left, celebrates scoring Japan's third goal against Spain with Risa Shimizu and Honoka Hayashi. Reuters
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Japan hammered Spain 4-0 in Wellington on Monday to sound a serious warning to their rivals in the Women's World Cup.

The Japanese, who won the tournament in 2011, scored three goals in the first half before adding a fourth in the 82nd minute as they finished top of Group C ahead of the Spanish.

The victory sets them up for a last-16 clash with Norway.

Hinata Miyazawa scored in the 12th and 40th minutes either side of a 29th-minute strike by Riko Ueki. Mina Tanaka added a fourth goal late in the second half.

Miyazawa's brace took her tally to four, making her the tournament's top scorer.

It was 11th-ranked Japan's first win in five meetings with Spain and the ease of the victory surely makes them contenders to win the tournament.

They have scored 11 goals, the highest tally in the tournament so far, and are one of four sides yet to concede.

The opening goal came in the 12th minute when Miyazawa beat the Spanish defence to latch on to Jun Endo's through ball from halfway before producing a low finish past goalkeeper Misa Rodriguez.

In the 29th minute, Miyazawa carried the ball forward before finding Ueki, whose shot deflected off Irene Paredes on its way in.

Five minutes before the break, Miyazawa found space before unleashing a powerful strike past Rodriguez.

Substitute Tanaka's made a superb solo run from the touchline in the 82nd minute before rounding things off with a sensational goal.

Spain, who like Japan had already qualified for the last 16 before the match, finish as runners-up in their group and now play Switzerland in the first knockout round in Auckland on Saturday.

Spain manager Jorge Vilda said after the game: "We have not seen the best Spanish team yet and I am convinced against Switzerland the team will react.

"No-one should lose hope. This defeat hurts, the players are angry and I am convinced they will be much better in the next match."

In the other Group C game, Zambia won a Women's World Cup match for the first time with a 3-1 victory over Costa Rica as they ended their tournament on a high.

With both teams already eliminated before the clash in Hamilton, defender Lushomo Mweemba put Zambia in front after just three minutes.

Skipper and star striker Barbra Banda made it 2-0 with a penalty just after the half-hour, and Racheal Kundananji got their third after Melissa Herrera had pulled one back.

Updated: July 31, 2023, 10:55 AM