USA take on Thailand as underdogs show defence can work

Paris (AFP) –


Argentina collected a first-ever Women's World Cup point with a determined defensive display against Japan on Monday, but holders United States can also expect to face a Thailand team determined to stifle on Tuesday.

On a day of defence against attack, Argentina held Japan 0-0 in Paris in Group D while Canada edged Cameroon 1-0 in Montpellier.

Facing a team that was a finalist in the last two World Cups, Argentina barely managed a shot on goal as they forced in the first goalless draw of the competition and only the seventh in the competition's history.

"Basically we couldn't play any other way against this team," said Carlos Borrello, the Argentina manager.

Cameroon, who won two matches on their only previous appearance in 2011, were undone by one set piece in the dying seconds of the first half.

"We had to be realistic and focus on defending and hitting on the counter-attack," said Alain Djeumfa, the coach of Cameroon, which won two of their three group games at the last World Cup.

When the whistle blew at Paris Saint-Germain's Parc des Princes stadium Argentina's substitutes jumped off the bench to join the players on the pitch at finally getting a World Cup point at the seventh attempt.

"This point is really important for us. I think we're able to reflect upon what Argentina is and what it means as a team,? said Estefania Banini, Argentina's captain who was voted player of the match.

"We weren't good enough to break down Argentina's defence today," said Asako Takakura, the Japan coach.

Since the group stage only eliminates eight of the 24 teams, the draw leaves Japan and Argentina needing one victory in their next two games. Both will need to find a way to score.

- 'More points' -

"We've still got two teams to face and they're going to be really competitive," said Banini. "We have to play really intelligent, compact football and become a really compact team and I think that we can progress.

"We believe that we can continue fighting and we can get more points and not go home with just one."

In Montpellier, Canada struggled with their shooting in the Group E opener.

Defender Kadeisha Buchanan scored the only goal arriving late to meet a corner at the far post and bounce a header past Annette Ngo Ndom in the Cameroon goal.

"I thought Cameroon did a great job of staying compact and making it difficult for us," Buchanan said.

The other two teams in the group, Netherlands and New Zealand, meet in Le Havre on Tuesday afternoon.

Even though the Dutch are European champions, they will be upstaged by World Cup holders and Olympic champions United States, who face Thailand in Reims in the third match of the day in Group F. The other two teams in the group, Chile and Sweden, meet in Rennes.

It is an intimidating assignment for the Thais, a team with just one World Cup appearance and just one victory, over Ivory Coast in 2015.

The United States are unbeaten in 28 games since losing to Australia in July 2017. They have averaged 3.32 goals a game in that run, but they have a long way to go to break the record of 57 games unbeaten set by the US women's team between 2004 and 2007.

Thailand coach Nuengrutai Srathongvian put a positive spin on the challenge.

"To face the number one team in the world at the opening match of the FIFA Women's World Cup is a massive opportunity for us to test and assess ourselves," she told the pre-match press conference.