Japan completed the quarter-final lineup for the Women’s World Cup on Tuesday when the defending champions rolled into the last eight with an impressive 2-1 win over Holland. The only team in the tournament to have won every game, Japan dominated the Dutch debutants with their speed and skill and move on to Edmonton and a Saturday meeting with Australia, who booked their last eight spot with an upset of Brazil.
An early strike from Saori Ariyoshi and a 78th-minute missile from Mizuho Sakaguchi accounted for Japan’s scoring, while Kirsten Van De Ven provided some late drama when her tame injury-time header somehow found its way past a static Ayumi Kaihori. Playing their first match in nine days, Holland looked rusty and were fortunate to reach the break just 1-0 down after Japan dominated the opening half, generating chance after chance and hammering 13 shots at the Dutch goal.
But Holland came to life in the second and were close to finding an equaliser in the 75th minute off a wild scramble from a corner, Kaihori blocking the initial goal-bound deflection before Van De Ven had her blast blocked on the line. Despite the close call the Japanese refused to panic and the ‘Nadeshiko’ calmly worked the ball down the field with Sakaguchi providing a thundering finish to some superb buildup play that included a cheeky back heel pass and dummy run.
Throughout the Women's World Cup, ESPN Stats & Information will provide breakdowns and analysis of the day's action. Here's a look at Japan's 2-1 win over the Dutch, the eight remaining teams and tournament milestones through the Round of 16.
* The United States beat China 1-0 and will play Germany in the semifinals on Tuesday. The U.S. is the only team to reach all seven Women's World Cup semifinals.
* The U.S. is now unbeaten in 25 straight games against China since 2003 (21-0-4).
* In her 200th career cap, Carli Lloyd scored the game's only goal in the 51st minute. She is the third player in U.S. history to score on her 200th cap, joining Abby Wambach and Heather O'Reilly.
* The United States extended its shutout streak to 423 minutes, the third-longest streak in tournament history. Its last (and only) goal conceded in this tournament was in the 27th minute of the opener against Australia.
* This game was Hope Solo's 134th career win, passing Briana Scurry for the most by a U.S. goalkeeper. It was also her 88th career shutout and fourth straight clean sheet.
* In the U.S.'s last four games, Hope Solo has faced six shots on goal, with the average shot distance coming from 31.9 yards out.
* Despite missing its two top creators, Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday, the U.S. had its most shots (17), chances created (13) and touches in the attacking third (241) of any game at this Women's World Cup.
England women beat semi-final opponents Japan in the last World Cup, only to see their rivals lift the trophy. That win came in the group phase of the 2011 tournament.
There will be no second chances for either side on Wednesday night in the semi-final in Edmonton, and skipper Steph Houghton admitted: “We know it’s going to be a massive game on Wednesday. "We’ve got to respect them. They are world champions for a reason. Now it’s all about recovering and focusing on trying our best to get into a final.”
Japan booked their place in the last four with a late goal from substitute Mana Iwabuchi, but Australia coach Alec Stajcic admitted his side deserved to lose. He said: “Clearly the better team won, even though I thought it evened out a bit after the first 20 minutes. Japan were a lot more composed over the full 90 minutes. We didn’t set out to play any differently, but we just spent a lot of energy in the first 20 minutes chasing the game.”
Norio Sasaki, Japan coach, said: “Even if we didn’t get a goal within 90 minutes, I felt we would get it inside 120 minutes. The gameplan was executed very well. “We will fight hard in the semi-final being mindful of the people supporting us back in Japan.” England earned a date against Japan with a 2-1 victory over hosts Canada.
A Carli Lloyd-inspired USA are into their second successive FIFA Women’s World Cup Final™ following an intensely fought semi-final in Montreal against Germany as the Americans ran out 2-0 winners. The contest was marked by a costly spot-kick failure from Celia Sasic, while Lloyd tucked away her penalty a few minutes later before then setting up Kelley O’Hara for a late sealer. The match was played at high tempo and with a level of physicality that you would expect of a match of this importance between the two highest ranked teams in the world.
USA had the better of the opening half as the Germans pressed hard when not in possession, while the Stars and Stripe looked typically steadfast in defence. Meanwhile at the other end of the pitch striker Alex Morgan had the best sights of goal. She firstly was denied by Nadine Angerer in a one-on-one opportunity after making a perfectly timed run behind the backline. Morgan then struck another effort wide from an acute angle from close range.
After the break Germany had a rare sight of goal as Anja Mittag pushed a header just wide, before drama on the hour mark. USA central defender Julie Johnston failed to deal with a bouncing through ball and fouled Alexandra Popp as the midfielder slipped in on the blindside. However, Canada 2015 top-scorer Sasic pushed her spot-kick wide amid US celebrations and tears of relief from Johnston.
Nine minutes later it was USA’s turn to earn a penalty as Morgan’s charging run ended with a foul by Annike Krahn and the ever-reliable Lloyd tucked away the opportunity. Germany pushed for an equaliser but USA sealed the contest with six minutes remaining as Lloyd dribbled into the penalty area and coolly pulled the ball back for O’Hara to gleefully fire home from close range.
It was a soccer player’s worst nightmare. With seconds left in a World Cup semifinal, Laura Bassett of England lunged for the ball and accidentally kicked it into her own net. Seconds later, the whistle blew. Japan had won, 2-1, and Bassett and many other England players were left in tears. And members of the sometimes vicious British news media sharpened their pens and offered ... sympathy?
The most common word in newspaper headlines was “heartbreak,” and photos of the weeping Bassett dominated. “England Women Have Done Their Country Proud,” The Times of London wrote. Even the tabloids were gentle, with The Mail grumbling that the better team had lost: ”Own Goal Gives Japan Lucky Win Over Lionesses.”
The Women’s World Cup is a showcase of the finest players in the world as well as a quadrennial trigger for debate over the treatment of women’s sports — by fans and the news media. England’s surprise run to the semifinals captured the attention of the country and its press corps, and exposed the contrasting response to a blunder by a female athlete compared with that of a male player.
In The Telegraph on Thursday, Claire Cohen called attention to this disparity in an essay titled, “Our Sympathy Towards Laura Bassett Is Sexist.” “If we really want men and women’s football to be on a level playing field,” she wrote, “then we need to treat all players in the same way.”