Japan 1, Germany 0

Japan knocked two-time defending champion Germany out of the

Women’s World Cup on Saturday, advancing to the semifinals with a

1-0 win when substitute Karina Maruyama outran the defense and

scored on an angled shot in extra time.

Japan absorbed relentless pressure during the match, gaining its

first World Cup semifinal and handing Germany its first loss in the

tournament in a dozen years.

Standout midfielder Homare Sawa spotted Maruyama’s deep run in

the 108th minute, served her perfectly and Maruyama slipped it past

goalie Nadine Angerer to silence the sellout crowd of 26,067 and an

expectant nation.

”I saw her running, I saw the gap in the defense and I gave the

assist,” Sawa said.

The 32-year-old’s field vision and precision passing earned her

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

bounces didn’t go the hosts’ way.

”I am so happy. We all fought together until the end,”

Maruyama said. ”It was not my success, but that of the whole

team.”

Germany’s fear of elimination appeared to douse its creativity

and the quarterfinal turned into a test of survival. 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 hosts.

Germany had not lost a World Cup game going back to a

quarterfinal defeat to the United States in 1999.

The loss also meant the likely end of the World Cup career of

Birgit Prinz, Germany’s best player and the tournament’s all-time

leading scorer. After two disappointing games, she was benched for

the last group game and again in the quarterfinal. She came off to

shake hands.

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 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March.

”Our playing is to be an encouragement for the victims of the

disaster,” Sasaki said.

Germany’s tactical plans had already gone awry after four

minutes when midfielder Kim Kulig hurt her right knee as she was

going for a header that just went over. Neid was counting on

Kulig’s ball-winning skills, but instead immediately had to replace

her.

”It was a shock for us,” Neid said.

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

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 after Simone Laudehr’s 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 anyone’s match with two tired teams chasing each and every

ball.

”Our players were forced to be patient and wait for their

opportunity,” Sasaki said.