HAMILTON, New Zealand -- The United States under-17 women's national team opened the under-17 Women's World Cup with a 3-2 loss to Japan on Wednesday.
Japan scored the go-ahead goal in the 74th minute off a long ball that settled onto the head of Akane Saito. The Japanese forward flicked the ball with her head to Kei Yoshioka, who settled it at the top of the penalty area and hit a volley into the upper-left corner.
U.S. forward Vicki DiMartino opened the scoring with a goal 139 seconds into the match.
The goal came off a long throw-in from the left sideline by Cloee Colohan that bounced inside the penalty box before Japanese goalkeeper Saki Nakamura made a play for it.
DiMartino challenged hard inside the 6-yard box and crashed into the Japanese goalkeeper, who had bobbled the ball. The referee did not call a foul as DiMartino put the ball into the net.
The U.S. lost midfielder Erika Tymrak to a hip injury 30 minutes into the game and as substitute Elizabeth Eddy waited at midfield to come in, Japan tied it.
The goal came after Chiaki Shimada's shot from 35 yards hit the crossbar and rebounded into the middle of the U.S. penalty area. Forward Mana Iwabuchi was first to the rebound, settling the ball before shooting into the left corner from 8 yards past U.S. goalkeeper Taylor Vancil.
Kristie Mewis put the U.S. ahead in the 51st minute.
The U.S. took advantage of its pressure to force a poor Japanese clearance that skipped right to Mewis, who was outside the penalty area on the left side. She chipped in a shot from 22 yards that skipped into the left corner of the goal.
Japan tied it at 2-2 when Natsumi Kameoka hit a shot from 36 yards that sailed over Vancil and under the crossbar in the 68th minute.
After Japan went ahead 3-2, the U.S. came close to the tying goal as sisters Kristie and Samantha Mewis each created chances late.
With about 10 minutes left, Samantha Mewis got free in the right corner of the penalty area with a spinning move and then fired at the left corner, only to see Nakamura get a glove to the ball to force it off the inside of the post. Three minutes later, a Kristie Mewis cross from the left was slapped away by the Japanese goalkeeper.
The win for Japan was its first over the United States in a FIFA women's match. The loss for the U.S. was the first in an international match for this team.
The U.S. faces Paraguay in its second Group C match on Nov. 2.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press