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Women’s World Cup: Japan & Spain run riot to seal quarter-final spots

Despite progressing from the 2023 Women’s World Cup group stage with a whimper rather than a bang, Spain proved their title credentials in the opening knockout round.

A 4-0 defeat to Japan in Group C’s top-table six-pointer on matchday three had cast doubt on La Roja’s lofty ambitions, but Jorge Vilda’s ladies played down fears among everyone back home on Saturday.

Inspired by Aitana Bonmati’s electrifying first-half performance, Spain trounced Switzerland 5-1 in their last-16 tie at Auckland’s Eden Park to make a historic achievement.

Apart from drawing a record crowd of 43,217 for a football match in New Zealand, Spain won a knockout match at a major international tournament for the first time.

Bonmati’s fifth-minute opener set the tone for a historic day for Spanish women’s football, but Laia Codina’s unfortunate own goal only six minutes later cut short their celebrations.

However, all signs pointed to plain sailing for Vilda’s star-studded team, as Switzerland couldn’t cope with the Iberians’ supersonic attack and relentless pressure.

Goals from Bonmati, Codina and Alba Redondo in the remainder of the first half fired Spain to a cruising 4-1 lead at half-time before Jennifer Hermoso dropped the curtain with a poacher’s finish in the 70th minute.

Spain’s road to their first-ever grand final looks complicated, as they will face off either South Africa or the Netherlands in the quarter-finals.

Their fellow Group C rivals Japan excelled in their respective last-16 tie against Norway, steamrolling to an eye-catching 3-1 win at the Sky Stadium in Wellington.

Barcelona midfielder Ingrid Engen extended Futoshi Ikeda’s side a helping hand in the 15th minute, but Chelsea ace Guro Reiten levelled the score only five minutes later.

But despite entering the break on level terms, Norway fell apart in the second half as West Ham United’s Risa Shimizu and Hinata Miyazawa propelled Japan to a landslide victory.

In addition to bettering last tournament’s run to the opening knockout round, Ikeda’s side condemned the Norwegians to their first last-16 exit since 2015.

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