Devastating Defeat For England Sends Japan To Final Against U.S.
It looked dicey for much of the second half, but the highly anticipated rematch between the United States and Japan for the Women's World Cup championship is on after the Japanese escaped with a 2-1 victory over England on an own goal from Laura Bassett in stoppage time.
Japan is the only team to win all six of its games in the tournament, and won each match by exactly one goal. Though the Japanese looked out of sorts for much of Wednesday night, coach Norio Sasaki was confident his team would look different against the Americans now that the pressure of making the finals is over.
Four years ago, Japan beat the United States on penalty kicks to capture the World Cup championship. It can join Germany as winners of back-to-back titles with a victory on Sunday. Here are three observations from Wednesday's semifinal match.
1. Iffy calls evened themselves out
Japan scored first for the sixth consecutive time in the World Cup, capitalizing on a penalty kick in the 31st minute. Claire Rafferty clearly pushed Saori Ariyoshi in the back, but replays appeared to show the foul happened outside the box. Aya Miyama, Japan's captain, lined up for the penalty kick.
She stutter-stepped and drilled the ball to the corner of the net, fooling England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley, who went the opposite way. The Japanese took a 1-0 lead, but it didn't last long.
Six minutes later, Steph Houghton drew a foul in the box and fell to the ground. It looked as though Houghton was barely touched. But England got the penalty kick, and blasted it past Ayumi Kaihori to tie the game before halftime. The Lionesses were pumped. England came back to dominate the second half.
2. For much of the game, it was Germany-USA all over
Japan is a patient and brilliant possession team, and it did control the ball 55 percent in the first half. But just like Germany on Monday night, Japan's touches were not where they counted. According to ESPN's Stats & Information tracking, England had 20 attacking penalty area touches through the first 65 minutes to Japan's two.
England had three prime opportunities to score in a four-minute flurry midway through the second half. Toni Duggan's shot hit the cross bar in the 62nd minute, then sub Ellen White placed a ball headed for the corner of the net, but Kaihori dove and swatted it away.
Two minutes later, Jill Scott's header sailed wide.
Canada showed up anyway
It had the makings of a beautiful night in Edmonton on Canada Day, the country's birthday. Nearly everyone was off work because of the holiday, and Canada was supposed to play in this semifinal Wednesday night, before England shocked the Canadians in the quarterfinals.
But the Canadians still came out Wednesday, wearing their patriotic gear, waiting for next time. A revved-up crowd of 31,467 came to Commonwealth Stadium to watch England nearly pull off another upset.