Nadeshiko beat China to win Olympic qualifying tournament
The Japan women’s team beat hosts China 1-0 thanks to Asuna Tanaka’s second-half strike in their fifth and final game of the Asian final-round qualifiers for the 2012 Olympics on Sunday night in Jinan, China.
Japan, who secured their berth in next year’s Summer Games on Thursday, won the six-team round-robin tournament with four wins and one draw against no defeats.
DPR Korea also qualified for the women’s Olympic tournament after a 5-0 win over Thailand gave them a points total of 11. Australia beat Korea Republic to come in third with nine points, followed by China (five points), Korea Republic (four) and Thailand (zero).
At Jinan Olympic Sports Center Stadium, Japan made several changes to their team, bringing in seven players who hadn’t seen much game time, but retaining midfielder Aya Miyama, forward Nahomi Kawasumi and defenders Azusa Iwashimizu and Aya Sameshima.
The new-look Nadeshiko started aggressively but couldn’t put good combinations together.
Even though China's fate had been decided by the DPR Korea-Thailand result earlier in the day, the hosts attacked hard with midfielder Ma Jun and forwards Xu Yuan and Han Duan making attempts up front. They came close with midfielder Qu Shanshan’s free-kick in the 36th minute.
After the break, Nadeshiko boss Norio Sasaki sent on forward Kozue Ando in place of Miyama, and the Duisburg forward created some good chances. In the 56th minute, she earned a corner from which Iwashimizu's header hit the bar, but Tanaka grabbed the rebound and fired the ball home to put Japan 1-0 up. It was Tanaka’s second goal of the tournament.
Ando came close in the 68th minute off a Sameshima cross, and Yuki Nagasato hit the bar off an Ando cross in the 76th minute. Six minutes later, Asano Nagasato – Yuki’s younger sister – saw a good effort go wide.
China also created some chances in the second half, but Japan goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto did well to protect her goal and give Japan their fifth straight win over China.
The Nadeshiko, who finished fourth in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, will make their third straight appearance in the Olympics in London next year and fourth overall.