VANCOUVER: A late goal from substitute Mana Iwabuchi against Australia in Edmonton on Saturday was enough to see holders Japan through to the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup with a 1-0 win.
The champions play England — who ended host Canada’s dream with a 2-1 victory to advance to their first semi-final — in Edmonton on Wednesday as former two-time winners Germany and the United States also play for a place in the final in Ottawa after beating France and China respectively on Friday.
The Japanese were dangerous early on but had little to show for their efforts during the first 20 minutes in their game at the Commonwealth Stadium.
Forward Shinobu Ohno threatened for the ‘Nadeshiko’ but hit over the crossbar, and soon after sent just wide.
Australia allowed their best chance go begging when a Mizuho Sakaguchi error on 54 minutes let Sam Kerr through but her tame effort went straight at Kahori.
Japan coach Norio Sasaki brought on Iwabuchi for Ohno after 72 minutes and she finally got the winner.
And Australian coach Alen Stajcic was full of praise for his side’s opponents. “They have already won a World Cup and Asian Cup, silver at the Olympics, you can tell, their chemistry’s fantastic, they’re technically superb,” he said.
Sasaki, on the other hand, said they were trying to recreate the emotion of winning in 2011 when they claimed a dramatic penalty shoot-out win against the United States to lift the spirits of their nation recovering from a devastating earthquake and tsunami.
“The emotion that we created in 2011 we certainly would like to be able to recreate that for the Japanese people,” said Sasaki, before adding that he was not worried with how long his team was shut out. “Even though it took us a long time to score, our patient playing resulted in this win and has given us confidence for our next game.”
England shock hosts Canada
Early goals from Jodie Taylor and Lucy Bronze dampened the cheers of the capacity 54,027 crowd in BC Place Stadium and sent England through to the semi-finals.
England follow on from their first win in a World Cup knockout game against Norway in the last 16. “They’re history makers again, only the third ever English team to get to a semi-final, we join that ‘66 and ‘90 club,” said coach Mark Sampson referring to the England men’s team.
His Canadian counterpart, however, was understandably distraught. “The dream’s over, it’s not how we imagined it to end,” said coach John Herdman. “We hadn’t written the script to be 2-0 down that early. Gutted, gutted for all of Canada.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2015.
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