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13/07/2011

Nadeshiko Japan beat Sweden, reach World Cup final

Japan reached the FIFA Women’s World Cup final for the first time after overcoming Sweden 3-1 in the semifinals in Frankfurt, Germany, on Wednesday night, setting up a showdown with the United States.

Forward Nahomi Kawasumi, who started for the first time in the tournament, struck twice, while Japan captain Homare Sawa scored the Nadeshiko’s other goal.
Midfielder Aya Miyama, who was involved in all three goals, was named Player of the Match.
Playing before a crowd of 45,434, Japan tried to put pressure on their opponents and take the initiative of the game.
But it was Sweden who took the lead. In the 10th minute, midfielder Josefine Oqvist intercepted a pass by Sawa to Azusa Iwashimizu, dribbled into the box and drilled the ball into the back of the net.
The Japanese players kept their cool and applied greater pressure to their opponents, gradually taking control of the game.
The Nadeshiko equalized in the 19th minute. Midfielder Shinobu Ohno received a ball from Iwashimizu and passed to Miyama on the left. Miyama then sent a cross in for Kawasumi, who beat her marker at the far post and stroked the ball home.
The Nadeshiko came close to widening their lead 10 minutes later when Kawasumi got a crisp return ball from Ohno and hit from the right side of the box, but her shot was saved by Sweden goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl.
In the 34th minute, Miyama threatened the Swedish goal by curling in a free-kick from 20 meters out, but Lindahl was just able to clear the danger.
Three minutes later, Kawasumi came close again with a shot from just outside the box that deflected off a Swedish defender and over the bar.
Japan were again in control after the break, and a few seconds into the half, Ohno hit the bar with a mid-range blast after being set up by Kawasumi.
Despite playing 120 minutes against Germany in the quarterfinals, the Japanese players maintained their strong pace with hard work and good passing combinations.
This paid off in the 60th minute. Miyama passed the ball to Aya Sameshima, who dribbled forward and fired off a shot. Lindahl was able to deal with that but couldn’t clear the danger and Sawa was on hand to head home the tie-breaking goal from close range.
Four minutes later, Japan made it 3-1. Miyama sent a crisp feed in from the left and Lindahl came a long way out to clear the ball. But her clearance was insufficient and found Kawasumi who brilliantly lobbed the ball into the net from 30 meters.
Japan’s domination continued to keep the Swedish players at the bay, and substitute forward Yuki Nagasato came close three minutes from time.
That was deflected to safety and the score would remain 3-1 to the end, when the Japanese players erupted in celebration.