The first day of the 2015 Women's World Cup took place yesterday with the opening matches for Group A played at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium.
Following the opening ceremonies, hosts Canada kicked off the festivities with a thrilling, if nerve-wracking match against China PR. An early flurry of chances fell Canada's way in front a 53-thousand strong crowd, Kadeisha Buchanan twice saw her attempts parried and Christine Sinclair threatening the keeper from a tight angle, strafing a shot across the face of goal.
China would respond in the 23rd minute when Wang Lisi's free-kick hit first the left-post and then the right, rattling both the woodwork and the nerves of the home side; minutes later Canada too would come close, Josee Belanger's shot from distance caroming off the face of the crossbar. A mad scramble in the Chinese box in the 36th minute would come to naught.
The second half settled into a mass of nerves: Canada bossing possession and the Chinese bunkering, reportedly hoping to hit on the counter. And just as the match appeared destined to end in a scoreless draw, Zhao Rong caught Adriana Leon in the chin with a high forearm as the ball bounced in the Chinese area, sending the Canadian crashing to the ground and prompting the referee to point to the spot.
As the nation's nerves sat frayed and in tatters, Sinclair coolly stepped up to the pressure, calmly rolling her kick, placing it perfectly to bank in off the left-post, beyond the reach of Chinese keeper, Wang Fei, and into the back of the net.
That 92nd minute winner gave Canada the start to the tournament they required, cruelly relegating China to an opening day loss in the most crushing of circumstances; penalties, especially last-minute, decisive ones, are usually highly-debatable.
The other two sides in Group A, New Zealand and Netherlands, would meet an hour later at the same venue, playing out a cracking 0-1 result that was not without a spot of controversy of its own.
New Zealand started the better of the two sides, twice testing Dutch keeper, Loes Geurts, inside the opening minutes of action. But it was the Netherlands, weathering that stormy period, who would take the lead in the 33rd minute when Lieke Martens was offered space at the left-corner of the area, moving in-field to thump a wicked, dipping right-footer across the Kiwi-keeper, Erin Nayler to the far-right corner of the goal.
That glorious strike would stand up as the winner, but not until after a potential penalty kick for New Zealand was waived away in the 83rd minute. A ball to the right-side of the box played Hannah Wilkinson in, tempting a rash challenge out of Dutch forward-turned-defender Martens - a striker's challenge indeed - but the referee waived away the protests, denying the Football Ferns, a chance to equalize.
Group A would end the day with Canada and Netherlands on three points with a +1 goal-differential, while China PR and New Zealand rest on zero points and a -1 goal-differential; alphabetical order the sole divider between the two sets.
Hot on the heels of that initial excitement, the tournament hops across the country to the East, the nation's capital - Ottawa's Landsdowne Stadium, to be exact - where a pair of teams expected to do well kick off their campaigns. Group B gets underway with when Norway faces Thailand in the first half of the doubleheader at 1 pm (EST); powerhouse Germany faces Cote D'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) in the chaser at 4 pm (EST).
Day One was fun, if nervy, Day Two looks promising and should have plenty of goals on offer with one of the real favourites hitting the pitch for the first time.