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Women's World Cup 2011: Japan Downs New Zealand, England Disappoints In Draw

New Zealand almost denied Japan an expected victory, but a Aya Miyama free kick gave the favorites a 2-1 win. In the late game, England were disappointing in a draw against Mexico.

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Women's World Cup 2011, England Vs. Mexico: Three Lionesses Disappoint In Draw

Coming into the 2011 Women's World Cup, England had wins over world powers Norway and the United States on their resume. With those wins and one of the best players in the world in Kelly Smith, big things were expected from the Three Lionesses in this tournament. Unfortunately for them and their fans, they were contained in their first game by a Mexico team who also owns an upset win over the U.S. women, as El Tri fought their way to a 1-1 draw.

Both goals were scored in the first half, and both highlighted why goalkeeping is likely to be very important in this tournament. While neither goal qualified as a howler, both were shots that the world class keepers like Hope Solo and Nadine Angerer would have had an excellent chance to stop. Mexico's 16 year old starter Cecilia Santiago had a great game, but looked lost on Fara Williams' brilliant headed goal in the 21st minute. On a corner kick, Williams rose up and hit a great looping header that sailed over the defense and dropped into the back of the net, giving England a 1-0 lead.

Mexico striker Monica Ocampo got one back for El Tri in the 33rd minute, and Karen Bardsley absolutely should have done better. The Atlanta Beat player took an ambitious rip from 30 yards out, hitting the target in the process, and Bardsley was completely caught out as she watched the ball hit the back of the net.

That would be the last goal of the game, as Mexico imposed their gameplan, kept the ball well, and frustrated England. The Three Lionesses didn't pass the ball well, while the usually great Eniola Aluko put in a fairly shocking performance. Kelly Smith was okay, but okay from her isn't going to do if England are going to advance in this tournament. With two tough games in front of them, they are likely to regret not taking three points from Mexico.


Women's World Cup 2011, Japan Vs. New Zealand: Favored Japan Grabs Three Points

It wasn't always easy for Japan, the No. 4 team in the world, but they eventually found enough quality to defeat New Zealand by a final score of 2-1, grabbing three points in their first 2011 Women's World Cup match. The score flatters the losers a little bit, as Japan controlled the vast majority of the game, but the Football Ferns defended well and made things difficult on Japan. 

In the opening minutes, it looked like this match was going to feature absolutely no surprises. Yuki Nagasato, Japan's star striker who plays her club football at Turbine Potsdam, scored a fantastic goal in the 6th minute to go ahead, hitting a stunning lob from the edge of the penalty area into the back of the net.

Six minutes later, New Zealand striker Amber Hearn came up with a surprising equalizer. Japan was caught out with their defense unorganized in the 12th minute and Hearn scored easily on a header from a cross that came from the right flank, as she was completely unmarked at the far post.

New Zealand held firm and kept Japan from scoring for longer than anyone could have expected, but the dream ended in the 68th minute when Aya Miyama scored for Japan on a great direct free kick, giving them the 2-1 win. Japan will take on Mexico in their next match, while New Zealand takes on England.


Women's World Cup 2011: Japan Vs. New Zealand, England Vs. Mexico, Group A

While Groups A and C fight for the 'Group of Death' title and Group D features the best player in the world, not too many know what to make of Group B in the 2011 Women's World Cup. There's no true world power in this grouping, with Japan being the highest ranked of the teams involved. They take on New Zealand in the group's first game. In Monday's night cap, emerging power England takes on a resilient Mexico side.

Japan vs. New Zealand

The Kiwis have never won a game in the Women's World Cup, but they still won't make things easy for Japan. It's a classic strength vs. skill dynamic, as Japan are one of the best teams in the world at keeping the ball, but they will have a size disadvantage against New Zealand. Look out for New Zealand's Ali Riley, one of the best fullbacks in America's WPS, as well as Japan's Yuki Nagasato, a deadly striker with a great scoring rate for her country and Turbine Potsdam in Germany.

England vs. Mexico

The incredible thing that these two teams have in common is that they've both beaten the United States in the last year. Mexico shocked the world when they downed the USWNT in Cancun, forcing the United States into a playoff with Italy just to get here. England did the same in a friendly at home as they completely outplayed the US. England are true dark horses in this competition, and they've shown that they can beat anyone. Their playmaker Kelly Smith is one of the best players in the world and should be tough for Mexico to slow down.

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