Ja­pan beat Nether­lands to reach quar­ter­fi­nal

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY JANIE MCCAULEY

Ja­pan coach No­rio Sasaki apol­o­gized for the stress­ful, flurry of a fin­ish. The de­fend­ing Women’s World Cup cham­pi­ons are on to the quar­ter­fi­nal fol­low­ing a nail-biter at the end against tour­na­ment first-timer the Nether­lands af­ter con­trol­ling most of the match.

Mizuho Sak­aguchi scored what turned out to be the de­cid­ing goal in the 78th minute on a pretty left-footed shot from the top of the 18-yard box, and Ja­pan held off a late at­tack and a close call in the wan­ing mo­ments to de­feat the Dutch 2-1 on Tues­day night in the knock­out stage.

“I’m sorry we kept you in sus­pense un­til the very end,” Sasaki said with a smile. “I tried to have a onesided, sta­ble game but we al­ways have these tense mo­ments.”

Kirsten van de Ven scored for the Dutch in stop­page time when the ball went off goal­keeper Ayumi Kai­hori’s right arm. Three ad­di­tional min­utes had been added to the clock. The goalie put her gloves to her face in dis­be­lief and said some­thing to her­self, then had to stay alert as the Dutch threat­ened once more be­fore the fi­nal whis­tle.

Sak­aguchi scored shortly af­ter Ja­pan nearly had an own goal. Sherida Spitse took a cor­ner in the 76th and the ball de­flected off Aya Sameshima to­ward her own net when Kai­hori punched it away with her right fist.

“We are in the knock­out stage so if we lost there would be noth­ing left, so I’m happy that we won,” Sak­aguchi said. “I went for a strike and I thought it was a long shot (in dis­tance) and that’s not my strength, but I thought I should try it.”

Saori Ariyoshi found her­self in per­fect po­si­tion when the Nether­lands flubbed a clear and scored from the top of the box in the 10th minute for Ja­pan’s ini­tial goal.

Ja­pan over­pow­ered the young Dutch squad for much of the evening at BC Place by con­trol­ling pos­ses­sion in the mid­field to cre­ate chances, and the de­fense pushed far up the field. The Nadeshiko, who along with Brazil were the only teams to win all three group-stage games, ad­vance to the quar­ter­fi­nal against Aus­tralia on Satur­day at Ed­mon­ton’s Com­mon­wealth Sta­dium.

They stuck with their fa­mil­iar World Cup trend, too. Five of Ja­pan’s six goals have come in the 29th minute or ear­lier, and all six have been scored by a dif­fer­ent player.

Ja­pan, with its hus­tle and fancy foot­work on dis­play for a crowd of 28,717, ran its game plan with pre­ci­sion to con­trol all of the field against an over­matched Nether­lands team mak­ing its World Cup de­but.

On the early scor­ing play, Aya Miyama drib­bled down the left side­line and crossed to Yuki Ogimi, whose header hit the cross­bar and Dutch de­fender Merel van Don­gen couldn’t clear the re­bound. Ariyoshi then con­nected from about 15 yards out and put the ball in the lower cor­ner past div­ing goal­keeper Loes Geurts.

Ja­pan had another solid chance in the 22nd minute on a pretty give­and-go from Sameshima to Shi­nobu Ohno that Sameshima struck over the bar. Ohno also missed an open header mo­ments be­fore the first-half whis­tle.

Even when the Nether­lands threat­ened early, it seemed a step slow.

Dutch coach Roger Rei­jn­ers said his team was sloppy with its pass­ing.

“Our team did all we could to get some­thing go­ing and not leave with noth­ing at all. Af­ter 2-0 we were a lit­tle lucky and man­aged to make it 2-1,” he said.

Manon Melis took a great ball in the sev­enth minute but couldn’t get a foot on it, whiff­ing as she knocked it out of bounds. In the 48th, 18-yearold for­ward Vi­vianne Miedema got the ball near the top left cor­ner of the box and opted to drib­ble into traf­fic rather than take a quick shot. The Dutch missed mak­ing con­tact on two head­ers from the same ball high in the box in the 73rd minute.

Ja­pan started three dif­fer­ent goal­keep­ers in the group stage as part of Sasaki’s lib­eral sub­sti­tu­tion plan to use his en­tire ros­ter and have ev­ery player ready to con­trib­ute.

Af­ter Erina Ya­mane in­jured her shoul­der, Sasaki went with Kai­hori — the only one to give up a goal in the group stage in a late score by Cameroon. Kai­hori made another save in the 86th minute on Tues­day.

Ja­pan’s Ho­mare Sawa, play­ing her sixth and fi­nal World Cup, en­tered in the 80th minute af­ter start­ing two of the team’s three matches in the group stage.

The Nether­lands missed a chance to qual­ify for next sum­mer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics as one of Europe’s top three teams, but could still earn a berth into the 12-team Olympic field through a Euro­pean play­off.

The white teddy bear wear­ing an over­sized No. 7 jersey that Ja­pan keeps close to honor in­jured team­mate Kozue Ando held its spot on the bench. Ando broke her left an­kle in the World Cup opener against Switzer­land.

AP

(Top) Nether­lands’ Vi­vianne Miedema #9 is stopped by Ja­pan’s Azusa Iwashimizu late in the sec­ond half of a round of 16 soc­cer match at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Tues­day, June 23. (Above) Ja­pan goal­keeper Ayumi Kai­hori, left, punches the ball away from Nether­lands’ Anouk Dekker, back, dur­ing the sec­ond half of a round of 16 soc­cer match at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Tues­day.

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