Match Report: Spain 1-1 Japan

Spain started a strong team with a 4-3-3 formation from Jorge Vilda as he looks for his team to build to the World Cup. Thanks to Spain for the stream on their website so can watch the build-up, a beautiful day in the sun in a nice looking ground. A minutes silence was taken for the tragedy of Jose Antonio Reyes, a cracking player. Spain set up to take the kick off, with the commentator reading each players name out with passion and pride which so deserved for the national team.

Spain started with a lot of possessional passing play as they ping it around creating angles and space early on while pressuring Japan off the ball. The passing was great to watch but couldn’t find a way through as Japan defended well-meaning Jennifer Hermoso had to drop back to get on the ball. Mapi León was fantastic all half but staked her claim early winning the ball back and staying touch tight all half, her passing and vision is something to behold and at 23 years old what a player she can still grow into as well. Vicky Losada turned the Japan defence after spreading the ball wide but it came to nothing, but Spain were on top as another chance wouldn’t fall as the ball pin-balled around the box before being cleared. Spain looked settled at the back being calm and strong.

The first real chance of the game came on 11 minutes and was none other than Jennifer Hermoso, the Spanish hotshot but it just rose over the crossbar. Japan were starting to grow into the game like Spain using their passing to keep possession but just couldn’t quite get past the defence as Mapi Leon was solid at the back every time it came through the middle. Not only does Leon do well at the ball but the way she switched play on the 18th minute was incredible as she picked out Marta Corredera who was adjudged to offside as her shot clattered the bar, on replay it didn’t look offside. The game was mainly battled out in the middle of the pitch both teams building up and running into each other’s defence.

A penalty was given on the 22nd minute as some great skill by Jenni Hermoso as It struck the Japanese defender on the arm in the box, an unfortunate but definitely a penalty. As the cool as ice Hermoso stepped up would only be one outcome as the commentator shouted “Gol, Gol, Gol” as Hermoso slotted the ball into the corner sending the keeper the wrong way. 1-0 to Spain after 22 minutes of the first half. After 25 minutes the teams had a drinks break with the sun beaming down on the players. Japan looked to create their first chance on the 28th minute but as the ball went the wrong side of the post as it doesn’t worry Sandra Paños too much. Another dubious offside after some great play by Virginia Torrecilla saw Amanda Sampedro called offside in a good position when she was clearly onside.

33 minutes Japan’s number 6 tried to cut inside and have a shot as she fired past the post but this one worried Sandra Paños more than the last one as she dived to make sure it didn’t go inside the post. Vicky Losada proves throughout the game her class as she reads the game so well winning the ball back and moving it around with some amazing passing as well, the game again though was a lot of good build-up play but nothing to really cause alarm for the defences. Marta Corredera was working hard on the wing with some skilful play seeing her hit the ball across the box making the keeper scramble to punch it away from danger. Japan dropped the ball into the box and as it entered the danger area Marta Corredera was there to make an important clearance. The half time whistle went with Spain being 1-0 up some incredible build play and passing but the final third just didn’t have the impact on the game with the penalty being the difference in score.

The second half kicked off and the first chance came to Spain from Marta Torrejón as the corner was headed towards goal but couldn’t get the power on it to challenge the keeper. Spain shut down a Japan attack as they looked like could cause some trouble but Spain stepped up and caught them offside. Spain were first to make changes on the 57th minute Leila Ouahabi came on for Marta Torrejón and Aitana Bonmatí replaced Amanda Sampedro.

A Spain free kick in a dangerous place sees Vicky Losada and Jenni Hermoso stand over it as Vicky stepped away, Hermoso tried to curl the ball into top corner but it went to high.

On the hour mark Japan made two substitutions as Sugasawa replaced Yokoyama and Miura came on for Ichise. A lunging challenge by Virginia Torrecilla saw her pick up the first yellow card of the game after a couple of warnings through the game. Spain made another three substitutions on the 64th minute as Patricia Guijarro replaced Alexia Putellas, Nahikari García for Vicky Losada, Lucia García came on for Jenni Hermoso.

Like the first half was a lot of play in midfield in building up but couldn’t quite get the telling pass to get in behind the defences. The 67th minute saw Nahikari and Lucía García link up on the counter but as they tried to connect the 1,2 to go through on goal the ball was overhit leaving no chance to make it count.

Spain made their 6th change off the game on the 71st minute with Virginia Torrecilla coming off for Silvia Meseguer. A chance came and went for Spain as Patricia Guijarro had a chance but over hit the shot as it wasn’t on target but was nearly a good chance.

75th minute Spain caught Japan on the back foot as a great ball fell to Nahikari Garcia and the shot by the attacker was brilliantly blocked by the Japanese defender.

76th minute Japan made their 3rd and 4th substitute as Endo came on for Momiki and Miyake for Shimizu. Aitana Bonmatí was starting to run the midfield spreading the ball and really impressing and looking dangerous on the ball. A great ball was played into the box and as it looked like Spain was about to take a 2-0 lead Nahikari García completely misjudged it as the attack didn’t come to much. Japan ran down other end and fired over the top.

The 86th minute Spain went to sleep as Japan drilled the ball across the box straight to the oncoming Sugasawa as she slid in connecting with the ball putting it into the net, Spain won’t be happy conceding a sloppy goal to bring the score back to 1-1 and with the timing of the goal as well.

On the 87th minute there was a good chance for Spain but as they try to be too cute it sees one pass too many as Japan manage to clear the ball before Spain can shoot. Japan not to be outdone tried to break quickly down the wing as the ball is crossed into the box Sandra Paños came out to collect it and stop any kind of pressure on the goal. Japan made another two substitutions in the 90th minute as Miyagawa and Utsugi replaced Hasegawa and Nakajima. Spain created a chance in the 92nd minute but the Japanese keeper pulling off a cracking double save after parring the first shot as it fell to Mariona Caldentey but somehow the keeper pulled off a fantastic reaction save to keep the score at 1-1.

The game finished 1-1 and a great run out for both teams as they get closer to the start of the World Cup, many substitutions in the game so can’t really take to much from the game. But no injuries and the core of the Spain squad are looking good and strong especially in the midfield and defence just need to be a little more clinical in front of goal.

Spain’s first World Cup game takes place on Saturday 8th June with a 5pm kick-off at the Stade Océane in Le Harve.

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Adam Nunn
adamnunn86@live.co.uk