Women's World Cup opens with brilliance and blowouts
By Steve Keating
(Reuters) - The Women's World Cup stopped to take a breath on Wednesday following an opening round of games that produced a little bit of everything, from tight matches to blowouts played in front of packed stands and near empty stadiums.
The month-long tournament which began on Saturday in Edmonton under the dark cloud of a FIFA bribery and corruption scandal got off to a brilliant start when Christine Sinclair scored in injury time to give the hosts a heart-stopping 1-0 win over China.
A record crowd for a Canadian international match of 53,058 was on hand to celebrate the victory and was joined by a record television audience of 1.8 million, but not everyone was feeling the joy of the World Cup party.
The Canadian Soccer Association announced on Monday that it had surpassed one million in ticket sales for the six venues across Canada but apparently not many were sold for the Group E opener between debutants Spain and Costa Rica that was played in a nearly vacant Montreal Olympic stadium
FIFA put the official attendance at 10,175 while local reports had the number at no more than 2,000 in a cavernous stadium built for the 1976 Montreal Olympics that provided a dreary backdrop for an occasionally entertaining 1-1 draw.
Overall, however, organizers had big smiles as World Cup fever began to catch hold in hockey-mad Canada, particularly in Winnipeg where thousands of American supporters flooded across the Manitoba/North Dakota border for the U.S. opener, which ended in a 3-1 win over Australia.
The arrival of the Americans in the Manitoba capital brought a genuine World Cup buzz that had been largely lacking in other cities as packs of face-painted fans dressed in outlandish red, white and blue costumes waved flags and chanted as they filled bars and restaurants in the days and hours before the match.
The second-ranked U.S. women have also commanded the sporting spotlight back home where fans have gathered in bars to watch the games on TV. Continued...