Women's World Cup: Spain claim first ever win at tournament
A team's opening game in a World Cup is always tricky. From the moment the draw is made, you're thinking about it, turning it over and over in your mind. As you make your way to the tournament, you can't see past that first test. And as Spain found out in the first half against South Africa, these nerves can take their toll. They struggled to settle, didn't play well, and went behind to a shot high into the net, something which is often an Achilles' heel for keepers in the women's game, given that the dimensions of the posts were conceived with the usually taller stature of their male counterparts in mind. Diving 'wrong' hand first, Sandra Paños did well to get her fingertips to the ball, but couldn't get enough on it to keep it out.
Spain settle in second 45 to run out worthy winners
A 1-0 half-time deficit was not part of the plan, but Spain coach Jorge Vilda sorted the team out at the break and, when they re-emerged, they had shaken off the nerves once and for all. That often happens: when you're left with little to lose, what's there to be afraid of? In the second period, Spain dominated both territory and possession, playing intelligent, neatly-constructed stuff to deliver an impressive display that the South Africans had little answer to. They stayed patient, yet all the while showed real attacking purpose. Getting into areas in and around the box was always the focus. All in all, it was no more than they deserved when they turned the scoreboard on its head to win 3-1 - their first ever victory at a World Cup.
Two of Spain's goals came from the penalty spot, the second after a VAR review that punished what was a ridiculous challenge by the South African defender. Jennifer Hermoso converted them both with the kind of composure and aplomb that befits a top player, stroking the first low to the left and firing the second into the right-hand corner. Lucía García added a third - and La Roja also hit the bar, had a further goal ruled out for by the assistant's flag and carved out a host of other openings. The Spaniards have two rather tougher assignments coming up, against Germany and China (whose meeting saw the former win 1-0) but they've now settled into their stride and will be feeling a whole lot more confident. A great start.
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