Mana Iwabuchi lifts Ja­pan to semi­fi­nals with 1-0 vic­tory over Aus­tralia

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY JOHN WAWROW

Ja­panese coach No­rio Sasaki couldn’t re­sist mak­ing a joke at Mana Iwabuchi’s ex­pense when ex­plain­ing his de­ci­sion to sub­sti­tute the for­ward in dur­ing the sec­ond half against Aus­tralia on Satur­day.

Iwabuchi, Sasaki said with a laugh, went from “not yet” to right now.

Some 15 min­utes af­ter en­ter­ing the game, Iwabuchi scored dur­ing a scram­ble in front in the 87th minute to se­cure a 1-0 vic­tory in the Women’s World Cup quar­ter­fi­nals Satur­day.

The fourth- ranked Ja­panese will stay in Ed­mon­ton, where they will play Eng­land in the semi­fi­nals Wed­nes­day. Eng­land beat Canada 2-1 in Van­cou­ver, Bri­tish Columbia.

Pa­tience and fresh legs paid off for the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons, as their ball- con­trol­ling style com­bined with the 90- de­gree tem­per­a­tures grad­u­ally wore down the 10th- ranked Aus­tralians.

Iwabuchi had nearly scored a minute ear­lier, but her shot was blocked by Elise Kel­lond-Knight, which led to a cor­ner kick.

Though Aya Miyama’s cor­ner kick was headed out of the penalty area, the ball bounced di­rectly to Rumi Ut­sugi, who im­me­di­ately sent it back to­ward the goal. Azusa Iwashimizu had her shot stopped by Ly­dia Wil­liams, but the goal­keeper was un­able to con­trol the re­bound.

The ball squirted to the where Iwabuchi knocked it open side.

Ja­pan is a per­fect 5-0 in Canada, and has won eight straight since win­ning the 2011 tour­na­ment in Ger­many, when it beat the United Stated 2-2 in penalty kicks in the cham­pi­onship game. The Nadeshiko are now two vic­to­ries from be­com­ing the sec­ond na­tion to win con­sec­u­tive tour­na­ments af­ter Ger­many won in 2003 and ’07.

The Matil­das go home af­ter mak­ing their deep­est run in tour­na­ment history. The 10thranked team won its first elim­i­na­tion game by up­set­ting sev­enth- ranked Brazil in the round of 16.

They were, how­ever, beaten by a team that showed more compo- left, the sure and pa­tience.

The Matil­das ex­erted too much energy chas­ing the ball in the first 20 min­utes. And when they fi­nally got pos­ses­sion, the Aus­tralians too of­ten gave the ball right back to Ja­pan.

Ja­pan has gone 4-0-1 in its past five meet­ings against its Asian re­gional ri­val, and is 8-1-1 in its past 10 games.

The Aus­tralians did a bet­ter job than Ja­pan’s pre­vi­ous tour­na­ment op­po­nents in bot­tling up the mid­dle and pres­sur­ing the ball car­rier to dis­rupt the Nadeshiko’s crisp, short-pass­ing style.

But the Ja­panese at­tack fi­nally wore down Aus­tralia in the sec­ond half.

In the 77th minute, Saori Ariyoshi broke free up the mid­dle only to have her shot blocked by Kel­lond-Knight.

Ja­pan had the best scor­ing op­por­tu­nity of the first half. It hap­pened in the 22nd minute off an Aus­tralian turnover.

Na­homi Kawa­sumi burst free up the right wing and threaded a per­fect pass into the penalty area, where Shi­nobu Ohno punched the ball just over the open right side of the goal.

Some four min­utes later, the Aus­tralians re­sponded off a great run by Sa­man­tha Kerr, who was bowled over by Iwashimizu, who was is­sued a yel­low card. That set up a free kick from 25 yards out. Alanna Kennedy took the kick, but curled her shot well wide of the right post.

Sasaki was pleased with how his team didn’t let down fol­low­ing sev­eral missed scor­ing chances.

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