On level terms at halftime after Amber Hearn’s 12th-minute header cancelled out Yuki Nagasato’s sixth-minute opener, Japanese super sub Mana Iwabuchi won a freekick on the edge of the area, which Miyama duly converted.
Despite Japan’s advantage in possession, New Zealand looked like they could claim their first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup point with a dogged performance but Iwabuchi’s mazy dribbling swung the game firmly Japan’s way.
Captain Rebecca Smith was forced into bringing down Iwabuchi just outside the box at the end of one scything run and Miyama found the distance exactly to her liking with a freekick that lifted over the wall and left goalkeeper Jenny Bindon little chance of reaching it in the top corner.
New Zealand coach John Herdman was in no doubt as to the midfielder’s impact on the match.
“Japan mesmerised us as we all know they can, particularly in that last 20 minutes with the introduction of Iwabuchi,” Herdman said.
“There weren’t too many surprises other than Iwabuchi off the bench. I don’t think the world has seen that player yet and we had no answer for her. Up until then we were stifling Japan. We rode our luck a little bit.”
It seemed luck would desert New Zealand when punished by Nagasato, who latched on to Shinobu Ohno’s delightful lofted through ball and lobbed the oncoming Bindon in the sixth minute.
But the Football Ferns’ ploy to turn and stretch the Japanese back four paid off just six minutes later when left fullback Anna Green picked out Ria Percival on the opposite flank who in turn found Hearn at the back post with an pinpoint cross.
New Zealand lived dangerously at times and Mizuho Sakaguchi hit the post in the eighth minute to give the Ferns a life but there was a mixture of both accomplished and desperate defending as well as a tireless Katie Hoyle in a holding midfield role to keep New Zealand in the game before and after Hearn’s leveler.
The introduction of a bustling Hannah Wilkinson midway through the second half caused some problems for the Japanese as both sides tired in 30 degree heat but an injury time freekick from Hearn that sailed over the bar was as close as the Ferns got to an historic result.
“I thought we might have hung on for a point,” Herdman said.
“We were hoping for a Winston Reid moment in the last couple of minutes but it didn’t come. But I’m proud of the girls today. I think they showed a typical kiwi spirit and never gave up.”
The Football Ferns’ focus now shifts to England and Mexico who drew 1-1 in Wolfsburg to help New Zealand’s cause.
New Zealand play England on Saturday morning (NZT) chasing the first of two wins likely to be needed to progress and Herdman believes his side will have little trouble bouncing back.
“It’s no challenge at all to motivate the players for the next game. It’s just part of the plan – we’ve been working for four years for this tournament. Game one’s over. We’ll wash that one away and focus on the tactics for England.”
FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011
Bochum, Germany
Group B
New Zealand 1 (Amber HEARN 12’)
Japan 2 (Yuki NAGASATO 6’, Aya MIYAMA 68’)
Halftime: 1-1
New Zealand: 1-Jenny BINDON (gk), 2-Ria PERCIVAL (16-Annalie LONGO 76’), 3-Anna GREEN, 4-Katie HOYLE, 5-Abby ERCEG, 6-Rebecca SMITH (c), 7-Ali RILEY, 9-Amber HEARN, 10-Sarah GREGORIUS (17-Hannah WILKINSON 61’), 12-Betsy HASSETT, 18-Katie BOWEN (8-Hayley MOORWOOD 46’)
Substitutes not used: 11-Kirsty YALLOP, 13-Rosie WHITE, 14-Sarah McLAUGHLIN, 15-Emma KETE, 19-Kristy HILL, 20-Aroon CLANSEY (gk), 21-Erin NAYLOR (gk).
Coach: John HERDMAN
Cautions: 18-Katie BOWEN 45’, 6-Rebecca SMITH 67’, 9-Amber HEARN 77’
Japan: 21-Ayumi KAIHORI (gk), 2-Yukari KINGA, 3-Azusa IWASHIMIZU, 4-Saki KUMAGAI, 6-Mizuho SAKAGUCHI, 7-Kozue ANDO (16-Asuna TANAKA 90+2), 8-Aya MIYAMA, 10-Homare SAWA (c), 11-Shinobu OHNO (20-Mana IWABUCHI 55’), 15-Aya SAMESHIMA, 17-Yuki NAGASATO (18-Karina MARUYAMA 76’).
Substitutes not used: 1-Nozomi YAMAGO (gk), 5-Kyoko YANO, 9-Nahomi KAWASUMI, 12-Miho FUKUMOTO (gk), 13-Rumi UTSUGI, 14-Megumi KAMIONOBE, 19-Megumi TAKASE.
Coach: Norio SASAKI
Cautions: None
Upcoming matches
New Zealand v England
Dresden, Germany
Friday July 1, 6.15pm (4.15am July 2 NZT)
Live on Sky Sport 2
New Zealand v Mexico
Sinsheim, Germany
Tuesday July 5, 6.15pm (4.15am July 6 NZT)
Live on Sky Sport 3
Story courtesy of New Zealand Football.
For more on New Zealand football go to www.nzfootball.co.nz