On the opening day of the 2017 Algarve Cup, it was tight and tense for all involved.
The first blood in Group A went to Russia who proved why they booked their place at the Euros against the tournament hosts, Portugal. A steady match saw Russia weather the Portuguese storm before Natalya Mashina capitalised and made the best of her chance late in the game.
It was a narrow one-nil win for Canada against Denmark but the Canucks will be left kicking themselves for missed chances and shots that cannoned the wood-work. The team on top throughout, it seemed like the North Americans would never make their pressure tell but a last-gasp goal from Christine Sinclair at point-blank range was enough for Canada to finally find a way through.
The second group was the far busier, seeing the lion’s share of goals on the opening day of the tournament, with Jorge Vilda’s Spain the only team of the 12 to score more than one goal as they cruised to a victory over Japan. Dominant from the off, it wasn’t until after the break that Spain finally unlocked the door as Japan had a half-time fire lit under them, a late rally not enough to get points on the board.
The second match in the group the only of the six to end in a stalemate, Norway and Iceland locked at 1-1 from the 8 minute until the 90 though it was not for want of trying. The Nordic pair battled across the pitch for 90 solid minutes, bodies bruised as both went for the glory but came up against stubborn defences.
Just like the other two early kick-offs, there was just one goal to separate Holland and China when they met in Albuferia. Renate Jansen’s low strike enough to beat Zhao Lina who looked to have the shot covered but let the ball roll between her gloves and into the back of the net, the early goal enough to leave the match delicately balanced until the death but neither were able to add to the scoreline.
Well used to a tight game, it was a good win for Pia Sundhage’s team over a new-look Australia, Lotta Schelin’s lone goal on the hour a touch of class to settle the tie. Up against a resolute defence there was no excusing the Matildas who didn’t take their rare chances when they came, Sweden equally of spurning a golden opportunity atoned for their miss with a fine solo goal to join the Netherlands at the top of their group.