PARIS — Argentina held former champion Japan to a 0-0 draw Monday to earn its first ever point in the Women’s World Cup.
Argentina lost its previous six World Cup matches in 2003 and 2007, and missed the 2011 and 2015 tournaments. Argentina had been outscored 33-2 in the six previous World Cup matches prior to Monday’s opener against Japan.
"For women’s football in Argentina it is great that we are starting to flourish," Argentina coach Carlos Borrello said. "We are starting on our way and just starting to face up to these powerful forces in football."
Argentina offered little threat but was compact and tough for 2011 champion Japan to break down.
"I congratulated my players. The fact they understand your game plan and are so disciplined on the pitch is very satisfying to see," Borrello said. ""We couldn’t play any other way against this team. We had to stay back and be very, very organized and then come out with some counter attacks. It was very satisfying to earn a point."
Japan took until the 50th minute to test goalkeeper Vanina Correa, who stopped forward Kumi Yokoyama’s low shot from about 35 metres out. Minutes later Japan midfielder Yui Hasegawa botched a good chance, swiping left of the goal from close range after a cross from the right.
Correa then palmed away a low cross from the right in the last minute and was hugged by her teammates at the final whistle.
"This point is really, really important for us. We will able to show what Argentina represents as a team," midfielder and captain Estefania Banini said. "I think we can do this, we can compensate and make up for the gap that does exist. We can make up for it with our attitude."
The gap between the sides was not so evident, but also because Japan, runner-up in 2015, was lacklustre.
Japan has just one win in seven matches this year. The national team has lost twice with four draws, including Monday against Argentina.
It was a subdued evening at Parc des Princes, with the 48,000-capacity stadium just over half full — a far cry from the raucous atmosphere during host France’s 4-0 win against South Korea on Friday night.
Smatterings of Argentina fans tried to get their team going with chants of "Ar-gen-tina, Ar-gen-tina" but it was another relatively low turnout from fans following England’s game against Scotland in Nice on Sunday.
Argentina centre forward Sole Jaimes made her presence felt with heavy challenges in the first half, one drawing a gasp from the crowd.
But referee Stephanie Frappart, who next season becomes the first woman to officiate fulltime in the French top flight , did not caution her. She did, however, show yellow cards to two Japanese players late in the first half for less robust interventions.
Japan had a good deal of possession around the Argentina box but could not find a way to test Correa in the first half.
However, a handling error from Correa almost gave Japan the lead. She misjudged Yokoyama’s shot from 35 metres out and palmed it to her right, where the advancing Yuika Sugasawa scooped it over from a tight angle.
She made amends later with a commanding presence on corners and crosses that was a welcome relief to her teammates.
"There’s no doubt in my mind that the goalkeeper has a really strong bearing over the whole team," Borrello said. "She’s got a lot of experience and she showed that."
Argentina next plays England and Japan faces Scotland. Both matches are on Friday.