Japan defeat England to reach women's football World Cup final
Japan advanced to their second consecutive women's football World Cup final on Thursday, following a 2-1 victory over surprise semi-finalists England in Edmonton. Japan coach Norio Sasaki admitted his side struggled to control England before a Laura Bassett own-goal gave the defending champions the victory.
"We had a tough game. I thought we could play the way we wanted to and we could stick to our plan, but they were playing in a very simple manner and they were also powerful," said Sasaki. "England were more mobile than I was expecting and we struggled to cause them problems.
"We didn't play as well as I'd hoped but we've qualified which is the main thing."
Sasaki attributed Bassett's own-goal to his side's adventure in the dying seconds.
" I feel sorry for the player," he added. "But Yuki Ogimi was right behind Bassett ready to pounce, so I don't think it would have made a difference either way. We created the goalscoring opportunity ourselves - for me, it's more a goal made by Nahomi Kawasumi and Ogimi than an own goal."
The sides went in at the pause at 1-1. Japan took the lead after 32 minutes from the penalty spot. England left-back Claire Rafferty was adjudged to have pushed Saori Ariyoshi as she ran in on goal. Skipper Aya Miyama struck home the penalty.
Japan's advantage didn't last long. Ogimi clipped Steph Houghton's left heel in the area. Fara Williams slotted in the spot kick. With the prospect of an upset, Sasaki said he told his players at half-time to take more risks.
"England were taking risks. I told my players not to be afraid of making mistakes otherwise we wouldn't be able to take chances," he said.
Sunday's final in Vancouver will be a third clash for a major title between Japan and the United States.
In the 2011 women's World Cup final in Frankfurt, Japan won on penalties. The Americans got their revenge at the London 2012 Olympics.
Such showdowns are still in the distance for England. Coach Mark Sampson praised the Japanese side's resilience.
"We have to pay credit to Japan," said the 32-year-old. "We saw why they're world champions. They've got hearts of lions.
"They hung in there and they stayed in the game. They represent their country in a manner their country should be very, very proud of."
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