Rampant title contenders Spain and former champions Japan became the first teams to reach the Women’s World Cup last 16 on Wednesday as both won with ease.

Two-times Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas started for Spain following her serious knee injury and played her part in a 5-0 demolition of Zambia.

Japan had been on the brink of reaching the knockout rounds following their 2-0 win over Costa Rica earlier in the day and the Spain result sent both of them sailing through.

Japan and Spain meet on Monday to decide who wins Group C, and with it a theoretically easier draw. Both have a perfect six points from two games and are yet to concede a goal.

Costa Rica and Zambia play the same day in the fight to avoid finishing bottom of the pile.

Barcelona’s Putellas came off at half-time at Eden Park in Auckland but Zambia were already dead and buried by then with Spain two goals in front against the lowest-ranked team in Australia and New Zealand.

Teresa Abelleira put Spain, 3-0 winners over Costa Rica in their World Cup opener, ahead after nine minutes with one of the best goals of the tournament yet.

After a neat interchange, the ball came to her on the edge of the box and she slammed it into the top corner in front of just over 20,000 spectators.

Jennifer Hermoso made it 2-0 four minutes later and Spain coach Jorge Vilda rang the changes at the break with an eye on the Japan clash and the last 16.

Hermoso scored again in the second half and substitute Alba Redondo also got a brace as Spain added gloss to the scoreline.

The 2011 champions Japan similarly beat an error-prone Costa Rica comfortably in front of 6,992 spectators in Dunedin, the smallest crowd at the tournament yet.

Japan, who began their campaign by thrashing Zambia 5-0, were never in trouble against an outclassed Costa Rica at the nearly 30,000-capacity Dunedin Stadium, where there were rows of empty seats.

The game was effectively killed off in the space of three first-half minutes with goals from Hikaru Naomoto and 19-year-old Aoba Fujino.

Canada fightback ends Ireland’s dreams

Manchester United forward Adriana Leon ignited Canada’s Women’s World Cup campaign Wednesday with the winner in a 2-1 victory to end Ireland’s hopes.

The pressure was on Olympic champions Canada after being held to a goalless draw against Nigeria but they fought back in Perth after the worst start possible.

They were left stunned in the fourth minute when Arsenal midfielder Katie McCabe scored direct from a corner, much to the delight of the 17,065 fans, most of whom were loudly cheering for Ireland despite the rain.

But Canada clawed back through an own goal from Megan Connolly just before half-time before Leon provided the winner in the 53rd minute.

The result ended Ireland’s hopes of progressing on their World Cup debut.

Canada moved top of Group B with four points, ahead of Australia’s clash with Nigeria in Brisbane on Thursday.

They received a boost with Chelsea midfielder Jessie Fleming returning from a calf injury and she took the captain’s armband from Christine Sinclair, who only started on the bench.

Evelyne Viens was preferred in attack after sparking Canada as a substitute against Nigeria.

Ireland were forced into a late change when Florida State forward Heather Payne suffered a hamstring injury during the warm-up and was replaced by Aine O’Gorman.

With their tournament hopes on the line, an aggressive Ireland ran Canada ragged in a spirited start.

They had goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan scrambling in the third minute when a cross from Lucy Quinn was almost met by Kyra Carusa.

But McCabe scored on the subsequent corner with her vicious left-foot in-swinger bamboozling Sheridan, whose outstretched fingers only managed to deflect the ball onto the right post and into the net.

McCabe had tried something similar against Australia without success in their 1-0 opening defeat, but after spotting Sheridan slightly off her line she made no mistake this time.

Canada attempted to stymie Ireland’s momentum by playing a possession game, but struggled to penetrate Ireland’s gritty defence led by Louise Quinn, who took her place after overcoming a foot injury sustained against Australia.

Canada had their first clear opportunity on the half hour, but Vanessa Gilles missed from close range after being on the end of a clever flick from Kadeisha Buchanan.

As the rain cascaded onto the ground, Canada’s persistance was rewarded just before half-time when a cross from Julia Grosso on the left side snaked through the Irish defence and deflected off Connolly for an own goal.

Canada coach Bev Priestman made three changes to start the second-half, including bringing on Sinclair.

It seemingly did the trick with Canada playing with more intent as they peppered the Irish goal.

Canada went ahead when a superb through ball from Sophie Schmidt found Leon, who fired past goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan.