Ary Borges was the star of the show at the Women’s World Cup on Monday, hitting a hat-trick for an impressive Brazil, while Germany also won big to begin their campaign. Italy were also victors but needed an 87th-minute header from substitute Cristiana Girelli to squeeze past Argentina 1-0. Brazil have featured at all eight previous Women’s World Cups — and never won it. Far tougher challenges lie ahead — they face France next — but their 4-0 thumping of debutants Panama was the perfect start for Swedish coach Pia Sundhage’s side.
The stylish victory was all about 23-year-old attacking midfielder Borges.
As well as her hat-trick she also set up the other — her backheel to tee up Bia Zaneratto at Hindmarsh Stadium in Adelaide capping off a sweeping team move and the best goal of the competition so far.
Some of the Panama players and fans were in tears during their national anthem, underlining what it means to them to be at the World Cup for the first time.
But this was a debut they will probably want to forget as Brazil put on an exhibition of flowing, attacking football.
As a result Brazil top Group F after Jamaica surprisingly held France 0-0 on Sunday.
Earlier, Alexandra Popp scored twice as Germany thrashed Morocco 6-0 for the biggest win of the tournament so far.
The lower-ranked teams at the first 32-team Women’s World Cup have generally held their own, indicating a closing of the gap in women’s international football.
But two-time champions Germany blew away Morocco, the first Arab team at a Women’s World Cup.
The Germans are among the favourites once again, along with holders the United States, England, Spain and France, and they showed why with a clinical performance in front of a near sell-out crowd of more than 27,000 in Melbourne.
In their 32-year-old skipper Popp they have one of the best goal-scorers around and she took full advantage of some poor Morocco defending with simple close-range finishes.
Klara Buehl made it three straight after half-time to end the match as any kind of contest, before two own goals and a late sixth from Lea Schueller.
“Today we came up against a team that was superior. It was David and Goliath,” said Morocco’s French coach Reynald Pedros.
Colombia face South Korea on Tuesday also in Group H, in the final match of the first round of group games.
Argentina had never won a game at the Women’s World Cup after appearing at three previous finals — and the wait goes on after going down to Italy in a fiery clash that yielded six yellow cards.
Juventus veteran Girelli was Italy’s saviour, coming on as a substitute in the 83rd minute and scoring the winner with a superb header just four minutes later in front of nearly 31,000 fans in Auckland.
“I am really happy for me and my teammates because we deserved the victory,” said Girelli, who scored a hat-trick against Jamaica at the 2019 World Cup.
“To win in that way, even though we had to suffer, is important,” added the 33-year-old, surely now a contender to start the next match against Sweden even if she had no complaints about being an impact substitute.
“If all the games are like this then there is no problem,” she said.
“Honestly, obviously every player wants to play 90 minutes, but I will settle for every game being like that. The main thing was the victory.”
Argentina coach German Portanova felt the result at Eden Park was harsh on his side.
“It was a very even match,” he said. “At times we controlled it and they did not have many opportunities.
“The result was somewhat unfair. A draw would have been the right score.”
Also on Tuesday, co-hosts New Zealand return to action when they face debutants the Philippines in Wellington.
In the third match of the day, Switzerland play former champions Norway.
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