Nadeshiko show promise on Olympic return; China brave despite big loss

Mana Iwabuchi came to Japan's rescue with an 84th-minute equaliser to salvage a 1-1 draw with Canada in their opening Group E match at 2020 Olympic Games. Masashi Hara/Getty Images

The opening ceremony for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo might still be some hours away, but the quadrennial event got underway in Japan on Wednesday, with the women's football tournament one of two events to kick things off.

With hosts Japan held to a 1-1 draw by 2016 semi-finalists Canada, it was Great Britain who took an early lead in Group E after defeating Chile 2-0.

It was goals galore in Group F as China suffered a heavy 5-0 defeat at the hands of Brazil, while the Netherlands thrashed Zambia 10-3.

In the third and final Group G, Australia overcame neighbours New Zealand 2-1 in Tokyo to sit behind Sweden, who registered a surprise 3-0 victory over reigning world champions United States.

- United States looked lost and confused in Olympic opener as Sweden end its unbeaten run

With the opening day of action in the women's tournament now behind us, we take a look at how the competition is shaping up for its Asian representatives.

Nadeshiko show promise in fightback against Canada

After reaching the semi-final and final at Beijing 2008 and London 2012 respectively, the Japan national team's failure to qualify for Rio in 2016 prompted a revamp of the squad ahead of the Tokyo Games.

The 2020 Olympic campaign is shaping up to be the hour of reckoning for coach Asako Takakura and her squad, which is now a mixture of seasoned campaigners like Saki Kumagai, and youth such as her defensive partner Nanami Kitamura.

Much is expected of Nadeshiko at their home Olympics as they return to the competition after almost a decade-long absence. So, perhaps it was only natural for the hosts to take some time to get their footing in the opener at the Sapporo Dome on the island of Hokkaido.

Coming up against back-to-back bronze medalists Canada, Japan learnt the hard way on how costly it was to let their guard down, with Christine Sinclair striking on the rebound to hand the North Americans advantage six minutes in.

For 45 minutes in Hokkaido, Japan looked like a team out of sorts -- uncharacteristic of the imposing side that trumped the likes of Paraguay, Panama, Ukraine, Mexico and Australia in the build-up to the tournament.

But Takakura's half-time team talk seemed to have rubbed off on the players as they returned an altogether different outfit for the restart. The introduction of Mina Tanaka from the bench at the interval also proved to be an inspired choice.

Though Tanaka failed to equalise for Japan in the 53rd minute by spurning a penalty, Mana Iwabuchi finally salvaged a deserved point for the hosts in the 84th minute after long periods of pressure on the Canada goal.

It might not have been a dream start for Nadeshiko but, having overcome the early jitters, Takakura's players will hope to make a statement when they face the strong challenge of Great Britain on Saturday before ending their group stage campaign against Chile next week.

China crushed by Brazil but Steel Roses can take heart from display

Wednesday was a historic day for Brazilian football as Marta became the first footballer -- man or woman -- to score in five consecutive Olympics, while 43-year-old Formiga took to the pitch for an incredible seventh Games in a 5-0 thrashing of China PR.

Yet, there was a feeling at Tokyo's Miyagi Stadium that the scoreline did the Chinese a huge injustice. A couple of individual errors from China early in the game saw six-time World Player of the Year Marta give the Canaries the lead before Debinha doubled the lead in the 22nd minute.

China were unravelling but Jia Xiuquan's decision to replace Wang Yan with Wurigumula brought some stability to the side. The experienced Wang Shanshan hit the post six minutes after the break, before the woodwork once again denied China and Zhang Xin in the 67th minute.

China were a third time unlucky when Wurigumula's header rattled the post 13 minutes from time, but their inefficiency in front of the goal cost them dearly as the South Americans cruised to a 5-0 win.

China will still take positives from the game as they prepare to bounce back against Zambia on the second matchday before what could be a crucial outing against 2019 Women's World Cup finalists Netherlands in their final fixture.

Australia one win away from securing a knockout berth

While Team USA's shock defeat to Sweden might have hogged the headlines on the opening day, another team that impressed in Group G were Australia who secured a 2-1 victory over New Zealand at the Tokyo Stadium.

West Ham's Tameka Yallop and Chelsea's Sam Kerr scored for the Matildas as new coach Tony Gustavsson finally recorded a win after five games in charge without tasting success, which comes as a perfect start to their Olympic campaign after being drawn into a tough group.

Australia will look to book back-to-back quarter-final appearances at the Olympics with a win against Sweden at the Saitama Stadium 2002 on Saturday before facing the US on July 27.