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Japan slay Sweden to book World Cup final berth
Published : 13 Jul 2011 22:00:18Rss feed
Japan booked their place in the women's World Cup final against the United States with a emphatic 3-1 victory over Sweden in Wednesday's semi-final after claiming another European scalp with an historic win.
Despite their nickname Nadeshiko -- a pink flower symbolising grace and beauty -- the Japanese are proving no pushovers at Germany 2011 and having beaten the hosts 1-0 in the quarter-final, they dominated Sweden in the semi.
Japan are in a World Cup final for the first time in their history as striker Nahomi Kawasumi netted goals either side of half-time while captain Homare Sawa capped another impressive display with her fourth goal in five games.
There was no hint of the Japanese domination to come when Sweden striker Josefine Oqvist opened the scoring when she drilled home her shot after 10 minutes past Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori.
Her strike took a deflection off the boot of Japan defender Saki Kumagai, which lifted the ball out of Kaihori's reach, but the Asians were level soon after having noticeably raised their game in front of the 45,434 crowd.
Midfielder Aya Miyama drilled in a cross and Kawasumi wove her way through several Swedish defenders to scramble the ball home on 19 minutes.
Japan finished the first half with 62 percent of ball possession and never relinquished their stranglehold over the Swedes.
They dominated the first-half -- managing six shots on goal, with three on target, compared to Sweden's one of each -- and nearly scored in the opening minute of the second-half.
Right wing Shinobu Ohno unleashed a long-range shot from well outside the penalty area, which beat Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl, but clipped the crossbar as it went out.
With Sweden failing to put any consistent pressure on the Japan goal, the Nadeshiko put the game beyond their reach with two goals in four minutes.
Sawa, one of the stars of this tournament, headed home after a goal-mouth scramble on the hour mark, her fourth in five games here.
With the Swedish defence all at sea, the Japanese capitalised when midfielder Kozue Ando forced Hedvig into a hasty clearance kick and Kawasumi scored her second of the game when she lobbed her shot into an empty goal from 40 yards on 64 minutes.
It was no more than Japan deserved having dominated the game, nullifying Sweden's attack into just four shots on goal all game compared to the Japanese's 14.
In Sunday's final in Frankfurt, Japan will face the Stars and Stripes following their 3-1 win over France earlier in Moenchengladbach.