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.