Nadeshiko Japan are just two wins away from a Women’s World Cup repeat victory. Here’s a look ahead to Quarter-final action in Canada.
By Matthew Hernon
It’s been roughly four years since Japan were last beaten at the Women’s World Cup. July 5, 2001, was the date and England were the opponents, winning the first round match 2–0. The two sides will meet again this Thursday morning, though this time the stakes are much higher. For the winner: a place in Sunday’s World Cup Final against either the U.S. or Germany.
Nadeshiko Japan are probably the best footballing side in the tournament and are the only team to have won every game, doing so each time by a single goal. They haven’t been outstanding yet, but in truth they haven’t needed to be. They have also improved a lot since the opening match with Switzerland when they were a little fortunate to win. They outplayed Holland in the second round clash and while the Quarter-final against Australia was a tight affair, it was one they never looked like losing.
England have also got better as the competition has progressed. They struggled to put two passes together in their first encounter, a 1–0 defeat to France. They’ve won every match since, though, making history along the way. Prior to this tournament they had never won a knockout game at the World Cup—they have now won two against Norway and Canada respectively. Can they make it three against Japan?
It will be a tall order. Japan will go into the match as favorites. They are the current World Champions, Olympic silver medalists and are technically superior to England. Having said all that, the Lionesses do know how to beat them. They are physically stronger and will cause them a lot of problems in the air. It’s set to be an intriguing game between two teams with very different styles.
The other Semi-final is seen as the clash of the titans, the top two ranked teams going head to head in what should be an intense battle. Germany have had a difficult route to the final, playing Sweden (ranked number 5) in the second round, followed by France (ranked number 3) in the Quarter-finals. They were mightily impressive against the Swedes, winning 4–1. France, however, were much tougher opponents and the match had to be settled by penalties.
Like Japan, the U.S. haven’t been overly impressive so far, but have had little trouble getting to the Semi-finals. Colombia in the second round and China in the Quarter-finals both fought bravely, but never really threatened to cause an upset. America’s best display was probably the 3–1 victory over Australia in the group stages. Germany is a step up in class from what they have faced so far, but with a solid defense and match-winners like Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan on their side, they have a good chance. It is a very tough one to call.
The U.S./Germany match will be on at 8 am July 1, and the Japan/England match will be on at 8 am July 2 (both times JST).
Aya Miyama (Japan): The captain and heartbeat of the side, she usually starts out on the left but often drifts inside where she can be more influential and dictate play. An experienced player with more than 150 caps to her name, she is a set-piece specialist.
Fara Williams (England): Homeless for six years during her late teens/early twenties, she is now the country’s most capped international for either gender. A goal-scoring midfielder with an excellent free-kick, she is the player that makes England tick.
Alex Morgan (USA): The golden girl of American football has yet to sparkle in this tournament, though is getting stronger as she continues her recovery from a knee injury. She managed her first goal of the competition in the second round against Colombia.
Celia Sasic (Germany): Currently the top scorer in the tournament with six goals, including the fastest ever hat-trick in World Cup history. She bagged a brace against Sweden in the second round and scored the crucial equalizer in the France game. A real livewire up front.