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WOMEN'S WORLD CUP: Japan dominate and defeat New Zealand

The opening game in Group B went the way of Japan as they triumphed 2-1 over New Zealand. Despite the narrow scoreline Japan always looked in control against a dogged display by their opponents.

Japan took an early lead through Yuki Nagasato but New Zealand quickly responded to leave the teams level after only 12 minutes, Amber Hearn levelling for the All Whites.

The favourites for this game were not to be denied and midway through the second half the pressure told on New Zealand as Aya Miyama's well executed free-kick earned the points in front of 12,500 spectators.

Japan coach Norio Sasaki admitted it had been a hard game: "It was a very tough game. New Zealand had a lot of chances and the final score could have been anything, but I thought our standard was higher in the second half.

"We're still making a lot of mistakes and we have to put that right, especially all those missed chances in the final half an hour."

New Zealand coach John Herdman had hoped for a point but conceded the quality of the opposition.

"It was a good match for the crowd. The Japanese team dazzled everybody, as per usual, particularly in the final 20 minutes after Iwabuchi came on.

"She's a wonderful player. We tried to come out of it with at least a point, but Japan don't give up that easily. Still, I'm proud of my players."

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Dave Williams

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