Spain, reigning European champions, hammered Japan 4-1 in their opening Group C contest in Couva. Despite starting slowly, the girls from the Iberian peninsula showed their class in the end and punished their Asian opponents on the counter-attack. After scoring three goals in the first half, a fourth in the second made Japan’s lone-goal an irrelevance.

The Japanese started the game sharper, moving the ball around well while the Spaniards took a while to settle into their rhythm. Unfortunately for the Asians they were unable to turn their early supremacy into goals, despite having two good chances from Haruna Kawashima and Chika Kato. Both times the Japanese attacks were snuffed out by outstanding Spanish goalkeeper Dolores Galardo.

When Spain finally took the lead in the 26th minute it was a big surprise, as they had yet to put anything together in the attacking third. Iraia Pérez took advantage of a huge miscommunication between the Japanese goalkeeper and centre-back, rounding both and passing the ball into an open net. And then, just two minutes after the restart, Alexia Putellas collected a fine pass from out right and made no mistake with a calm finish.

The frustrated Asians responded with a frenzied attack, but they left themselves open at the back. They were caught cold and conceded a third four minutes before the interval when Laura Gutierrez headed home a corner-kick from Sara Mérida.

The Japanese came out with renewed spirit in the second half, but they were unable to reverse the course of things. The Spaniards were dominating possession and pushing forward whenever possible. In the 55th minute, the the Europeans added a fourth on the counterattack. Raquel Pinel completed the move with an elegant lob over the Japanese goalkeeper.

Kumi Yokoyama managed to pull a goal back for Japan shortly after, but it was too little too late to change the result. The European champions will next face New Zealand on 9 September with the luckless Japanese taking on Venezuela that same day.