Argentina soaring after historic opener, eager for England
PARIS (AP) — Argentina was absolutely giddy after earning its first ever point in Women’s World Cup competition with a draw against Japan in the opening round.
The Argentinian squad is ranked 37th in the world — three spots below the Thailand team routed 13-0 by the United States — and the team didn’t even qualify for the tournament in 2011 and 2015. Argentina came to France having been outscored 33-2 in six previous World Cup losses.
The South Americans are riding high from simply not losing to Japan as they next face a far more formidable opponent in England in the Group D game Friday at Stade Océane in Le Havre.
“Naturally, it’s the beginning of the road. This has really changed the dynamic,” said coach Carlos Borrello. “It means everything, as a coach, as players, everyone in women’s football, and it well help in getting more support.”
“This is a very important success for us.”
England beat Scotland 2-1 in its opening game, and coach Phil Neville felt the Lionesses were flat and mediocre in the second half.
Neville said Thursday the “2-1 (final) did not reflect the game” and it was clear England’s players are taking Argentina seriously.
“I think everyone in this tournament is here on merit and we definitely do not underestimate any team,” said goalkeeper Karen Bardsley. “I think we’re very much prepared for anything that could happen. We have to treat it as if we are going to play a top nation. We have to be extremely respectful of what could potentially happen.”
Argentina is a longshot to get past England but its draw against Japan has done wonders for the women’s team that has struggled for attention in the shadow of the nation’s hugely popular men’s squad. Borello insisted Thursday that “Argentina is just one team, one team united,” and said his team dined with the men’s squad before departing for France.
“We have their support,” Borrello said.
He also suggested that the popularity for Argentina’s women’s team has exploded nationally, and that alone is a victory regardless of what happens against England.
“If we can even get one point, or even three, it would be welcome,” he said. “We came to try. England is a great team, we know this. But we also have things up our sleeve, we have passion, and we are going to give it our all. We have passion.”
JAPAN-SCOTLAND: The day begins with a Group D match between Japan, a team disappointed by its opening-round draw against Argentina, and Scotland, which isn’t quite sure yet where it stacks up in this tournament.
Japan won the tournament in 2011 and was runner-up in 2015, yet failed to score against Argentina in an embarrassingly flat opener.
For Scotland, that game and Argentina were inspiration for its own match with Japan.
“We can take a few pointers from that into our game against them,” said midfielder Kim Little. “Japan are a great team and have been for many years, so we have to respect their style of football. We are extremely respectful of what they are capable of, but we’re also aware that with our capabilities we can try and break them down with a good performance of our own.”
Japan has 17 of its 23 players appearing at their first World Cup.
JAMAICA-ITALY: The Group C match features a pair of teams with polar opposite starts to the tournament.
Italy shocked Australia with a goal in stoppage time for a 2-1 upset. Now Italy likely needs only a draw at Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims to advance out of the group stage.
Jamaica lost 3-0 to Brazil and coach Hue Menzies knows the match against Italy could decide the team’s tournament fate even before its final group contest. He would not reveal his plans for Italy after Thursday’s practice beyond promised roster moves.
“We’re going to have a few personnel changes,” he said.
“I don’t know yet, but we’ll see.”
RECAPPING THURSDAY: Australia rallied from down two goals to beat Brazil 3-2 in a match decided by an own goal. The game was tied until an error by Monica of Brazil snapped the stalemate in the 66th minute. Sam Kerr appeared to be offside but the goal was awarded after video review. Marta scored her record 16th career tournament goal, and became the first player to score in five different World Cups. ... China got its tournament back on track with a 1-0 victory over South Africa. China evened itself with Spain for second place in Group B with three points, and now focuses on its next match and the push to join group leader Germany in the last 16. China lost 1-0 to two-time champion Germany in its opening match. South Africa was beaten 3-1 by Spain and now has two losses.