With 3-0 win in wintry Wellington, Spain sets the standard; Switzerland blanks Philippines

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — When Alexis Putellas finally made her entry into Spain’s opener at the Women’s World Cup against Costa Rica on Friday, the match was already won.

The two-time Ballon d’Or winner waited 77 minutes to leave the bench, to enter the tournament and to provide an early answer to questions about her fitness after her long recuperation from injury.

Putellas damaged the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee just before Spain’s European Championship campaign last year, returned for the first time in April and has been played sparingly since, mostly from the bench.

Her appearance in the 3-0 win at Wellington on a night of stinging rain and cold was an affirmation of her fitness, the promise of better things to come as the tournament proceeds and the last component of a triumphant night for Spain.

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“Every single moment for her really counts. She’s a really good quality player,” Spain coach Jorge Vilda said. “We’re going to do our best to help her and get the best out of her.”

Three goals in less than five minutes in the middle of a first half in which they enjoyed extraordinary dominance of possession and freedom on attack carried Spain to a 3-0 lead over Costa Rica by halftime. That lead endured for all of the second half, though Spain finished with 45 shots on goal.

Spain’s winning margin would have been much greater but for a determined performance by Costa Rica goalkeeper Daniela Solero on her 26th birthday. Solero saved a first-half penalty and parried shot after shot to prevent Spain’s lead growing beyond already emphatic proportions.

There was still, in Spain’s win, a resounding warning to other teams. 

“We’ve come to the World Cup with a lot of hope,” Vilda said. “We wanted to get a good and fresh start.

“I don’t think we have to look backwards. We need to look ahead. Our present was the match tonight and I think we were very satisfied with that.”

SWITZERLAND 2, PHILIPPINES 0: Ramona Bachmann drilled her penalty kick into the left side of the net moments before halftime to set up Switzerland’s win in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Switzerland’s Seraina Piubel added a second-half goal, scoring on the rebound from a missed shot by Coumba Sow that ricocheted off Philippines goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel.

The Group A encounter was the first game inside Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium, the tournament’s only indoor venue. The crowd’s cheers echoed around the walls of the roughly half-full stadium, with an attendance of 13,711 in a venue that can fit over 30,000.

Philippines forward Katrina Guillou appeared to score a goal in the 15th minute, but it was waived off by an offside call.

Switzerland dominated offensively, outshooting the Philippines 17-3, but the Filipinas’ defense hung on. McDaniel held her own, making several key first-half saves — only allowing Bachmann’s late penalty.

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