Reigning champion Japan held off a persistent Netherlands team to triumph 2-1 and advance to the Women’s World Cup quarterfinals.
After taking the lead through Saori Ariyoshi early in the first half Tuesday, Japan had to weather a string of attacks from the Dutch before Mizuho Sakaguchi wrapped up victory with 12 minutes remaining.
Kirsten van de Ven’s late header gave the Netherlands some slim hope of forcing extra time but the European side could not manage an equalizer.
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Ariyoshi put Japan in front in the 10th minute after Yuki Ogimi’s header rebounded off the crossbar. The Dutch — in their first World Cup — did not take a step back against the champions, however, and came desperately close to equalizing in the 76th minute, with Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori forced to save a potential own goal before Van de Ven’s follow-up shot was blocked.
Roger Reijners’ team would live to rue that missed opportunity, as Japan went down the other end and Sakaguchi curled the ball into the net from the top of the box.
A terrible error from Kaihori allowed Van de Ven’s header to roll over the line in stoppage time but Japan held on to keep its World Cup defense alive.
Japan will face Australia in the quarters in Edmonton on Saturday.
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