Spain opened their Women’s World Cup campaign on Friday with a 3-0 win over Costa Rica while Switzerland ensured there would be no fairytale debut for the Philippines.
In the first match of the day, goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie was the hero for Nigeria by saving a penalty to earn them a 0-0 draw with Olympic champions Canada.
Spain’s build-up to the tournament in Australia and New Zealand was clouded by a simmering row involving a group of 15 players who refused to feature under coach Jorge Vilda.
Three players eventually returned to the squad for the World Cup and one of them, Aitana Bonmati, was on the scoresheet in Wellington as La Roja launched wave after wave of attacks at the overwhelmed Costa Rican defence.
An own goal put Spain on their way and after Bonmati netted, Esther Gonzalez made it three in a ruthless six-minute first-half spell to kill off Costa Rica in double-quick time.
Spain should have won by many more – Jennifer Hermoso fluffed a first-half penalty – and did not miss their two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas, who was on the bench.
Putellas started as a substitute, but ominously for Spain’s rivals for the title, came off the bench for the last 13 minutes, allaying fears about a possible injury. She only returned in April from a serious knee injury.
There have been only five games in this World Cup so far, but already there has been a penalty in every game.
In the first match on Friday, Nnadozie denied Canada and their record-breaking goalscorer Christine Sinclair from the spot in front of 21,410 fans in Melbourne.
Nnadozie called it a dream come true as both sides took a point in a tight-looking Group B which is topped by Australia following their 1-0 win over Ireland on Thursday, again through a penalty.
“It was a great thing today that we were able to at least get something and it was a dream come true for me personally,” said the goalkeeper, who was named player of the match.
The 22-year-old Paris FC stopper said she wanted revenge on Sinclair – the all-time top scorer in international football – after conceding against the forward previously.
“When she took the ball, I was like, ‘Okay, it’s Sinclair again’, because the last time we played against them, she scored against me.
“I was very angry, and I told myself, this is the opportunity to make things right.”
No fairytale beginning for Philippines
The Philippines were beaten 2-0 by Switzerland as their World Cup debut fell flat.
The Asian side, one of the tournament debutants, thought they had taken the lead in the first half in the New Zealand city of Dunedin but the goal was ruled out for offside in front of 13,711 spectators.
If that was the correct call, the VAR decision which gave the Swiss a penalty on the stroke of half-time was more contentious.
Ramona Bachmann was nevertheless unerring from the spot, sending goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel the wrong way.
The Swiss, ranked 20th in the world to their opponent’s 46th, were good value for their lead and doubled it in the 64th minute when Seraina Piubel slammed in a rebound from close range for a routine win.
Switzerland joined co-hosts New Zealand at the top of Group A on three points.
With inputs from AFP.