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
”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
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
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
”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
”Our players were forced to be patient and wait for their
opportunity,” Sasaki said.