Japan beats Germany to make Women’s WCup semis
Japan knocked two-time defending champion Germany out of the
Women’s World Cup on Saturday, reaching the semifinals with a 1-0
win when substitute Karina Maruyama outran the defense and scored
on an angled shot in extra time.
In Germany’s first loss in the tournament in a dozen years,
Japan absorbed relentless pressure during regulation time and hit
back when it counted.
Standout midfielder Homare Sawa still had the alacrity in the
108th minute to spot a deep run from the substitute, serve her
perfectly and see Maruyama slip it around goalie Nadine Angerer to
stun the 26,067-sellout crowd and an expectant nation.
”I saw her running , I saw the gap in the defense and I gave
the assist,” Sawa said. Such sharpness of mind when others could
hardly run won the 32-year-old the player of the match award.
”I take my hat off to her,” said Germany coach Silvia Neid.
”It is her fifth World Cup and she still plays so well.”
Germany threw everything forward in the final dozen minutes, but
it didn’t matter. As throughout the tension-filled match, the ball
never fell kindly to the hosts in the goalmouth. Instead, Japan was
through to its first World Cup semifinal.
”I am so happy. We all fought together until the end,” said
Maruyama. ”It was not my success but that of the whole team.”
For too long, Germany’s fear of elimination had doused the
spirit of creativity. In the end, fatigue got the better of
everyone as the quarterfinal turned into a survival of the fittest.
And in the end it was the ”Japanese game” that coach Norio Sasaki
promised that made the difference – one precision pass and
lightness of feet outdid two hours of grinding and pushing by the
Germany had not lost a World Cup game in a dozen years going
back to a quarterfinal defeat against the United States in
It also meant the end of the World Cup career of Birgit Prinz,
Germany’s best-ever player and the tournament’s all-time scoring
leader. After two disappointing games, she was benched for the last
group game and again in the quarterfinal. She came off only after
it was all over to shake hands with Sawa, both five-cup
After the game, the Japanese players united behind a Japanese
banner saying, ”To our friends around the world – Thank you for
your support,” recognizing the global aid in the wake of the
deadly Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March.
”Out playing is to be an encouragement for the victims of the
disaster,” said Sasaki.
Germany’s tactical plans already went awry after four minutes
when midfielder Kim Kulig hurt her right knee as she was going for
a header which just went over. Neid had counted on her to bring in
more power but instead immediately had to replace her.
”It was a shock for us,” said Neid, who counted on Kulig’s
Germany was piling early pressure with high balls, yet after 20
minutes, things slowly started to turn.
The fervor went out of the capacity crowd and Japan got a better
foothold in midfield.
Unlike its loss to England in the last group game, Japan was
able to deal with the physical pressure Germany was throwing at it
and their defenders put a foot in as often as the Germans did.
Early in the second half, Germany threatened again when Yukari
Kinga kicked a ball off the line off a Simone Laudehr header. Yet
Japan refused to crack under the pressure, even if it was forced to
concede two yellow cards.
Sawa kept her team composed and set up chances for attack with a
close control game and precision passing.
Soon, the mighty Germans were kicking the ball out of their
penalty area in panic and with 15 minutes to go, the quarterfinal
was anybody’s, with two tired teams chasing each and every
”Our players were forced to be patient and wait for their
opportunity,” said Sasaki.
Germany: Nadine Angerer, Babett Peter, Saskia Bartusiak, Linda
Bresonik (Lena Goessling, 64), Annike Krahn, Melanie Behringer, Kim
Kulig (Bianca Schmnidt, 8) , Simone Laudehr, Celia Okoyino da
Mbabi, Kerstin Garefrekes, Inka Grings (Alexandra Popp, 102).
Japan: Ayumi Kaihori, Aya Sameshima, Saki Kumagai, Azusa
Iwashimizu, Yukari Kinga, Aya Miyama, Homare Sawa, Mizuho
Sakaguchi, Shinobu Ohno (Mana Iwabuchi, 66), Yuki Nagasato (Karina
Maruyama, 46), Kozue Ando.