Spain will not forget International Women's Day 2017 anytime soon. For the first time in their history, Spain won the Algarve Cup, the prestigious invitational tournament. Even more remarkably, they did it on their first participation in the competition.
Spain defeated defending Algarve Cup champions Canada 1-0 in the final in Faro thanks to an early goal scored by defender Leila Ouahabi in the fourth minute.
Jorge Vilda's side defended their early lead well and put together a solid, collective performance at the back to keep John Herdman's Canada at bay.
On their way to the title, Spain defeated 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup™ runners-up Japan and Norway, runners-up at UEFA Women's EURO 2013.
The victory will give Vilda's squad great confidence heading into the UEFA Women's EURO 2017, which will be played in the Netherlands from 16 July to 6 August. Spain will play in Group D, where they will come up against England, Scotland and Portugal.
Denmark v Australia
The Matildas finished fourth at the Algarve Cup in Portugal after losing their bronze medal play-off to Denmark in a penalty shootout.
The teams were locked at 1-1 after 90 minutes, with Australian striker Kyah Simon’s first-half goal cancelled out by a Pernille Harder strike 10 minutes from time at Albufeira.
Matildas to play Denmark for third place at Algarve Cup.
With no extra-time, the game headed straight to penalties where veteran Clare Polkinghorne and replacement Samantha Kerr had their efforts saved.
Denmark made no mistake as Sanne Troelsgaard’s top-left corner shot handed the Europeans a 4-1 shootout victory and the bronze medal. Spain took out the invitational tournament, beating Canada 1-0 in the final.
Australia, who finished atop group C, started the stronger when Sydney FC’s Simon benefited from a left-side run by attacking partner Katrina Gorry. Gorry coasted past two defenders before finding Simon, who smashed the ball home at close range.
The two sides traded chances, with Simon and team-mate Emily Van Egmond narrowly missing attempts on goal and Matildas stopper Lydia Williams pulling off saves to deny Troelsgaard and Harder.
With an Australian victory in sight, star striker Harder stepped up to control a long-ball superbly and then slice through two defenders, placing her shot into the top right corner.
In the shoot-out, Elise Kellond-Knight found the net before Polkinghorne and Kerr failed to breach Danish goalkeeper Stina Lykke Petersen. It completes an up-and down tournament for world No6 Australia, losing to Sweden before recording wins over the Netherlands and China in the pool stage.
Japan v Netherlands
The Japan women’s soccer team fell to the Netherlands 3-2 on Wednesday to finish in sixth place after the classification matches at the Algarve Cup.
Japan came from two goals down to level the match after 77 minutes through Kumi Yokoyama and an own goal from Sheila van den Bulk. But Rumi Utsugi put through her own net deep into injury time to hand the 10-woman Dutch the victory.
“The way we played was embarrassing,” said Japan coach Asako Takakura, whose side had a one-player advantage for the last 29 minutes after Mandy van den Berg was sent off for a second bookable offense.
Indeed, poor goalkeeping from Ayaka Yamashita allowed Anouk Dekker to pounce and open the scoring in the 13th-minute and Shanice van de Sanden then set up Lieke Martens to double the Netherlands’ advantage five minutes later.
Yokoyama pulled one back with a superb strike on 20 minutes for her fourth goal of the tournament and Japan equalized when van den Bulk’s miscued clearance from Yuka Momiki’s cross ended up in the back of the net.
But a freak goal decided the match in the Dutch’s favor in the 93rd minute, Utsugi putting the ball inside the near post in an attempt to dispossess Vivianne Miedema.
“The way we conceded that goal at the end completely summed us up,” Takakura said. “That we are a new team with young players is no excuse. There are still a lot of things we need to do in both attack and defense.”
Kaede Nakamura, who made her Japan debut at this tournament, could not hide her disappointment after her mistake led to what the Netherlands’ winner.
“This was my third match but it has turned out to be my worst performance,” she said.
From: Fifa, Japan Times and The Guardian