Japan 4, Mexico 0

BY foxsports • July 1, 2011

Japan routed Mexico 4-0 Friday on a hat trick by Homare Sawa to reach the quarterfinals of the Women's World Cup for the second time.

Sawa, playing in her fifth World Cup, opened the scoring in the 13th minute before a crowd of 22,291 at Bay Arena. The 32-year-old captain added her second goal in the 39th after Shinobu Ohno had made it 2-0 in the 15th. Sawa had plenty of room in the 80th minute when she was set up by Yukari Kinga for her last score.

''I didn't dare imagine that I would score three goals,'' said Sawa, who became her country's top scorer - male or female - with 78.

''I'm really, really surprised,'' she added. ''I would like to continue to contribute as much as possible to Japanese football.''

In Group B's late game in Dresden, England and New Zealand need a win to have any realistic hope of advancing. Mexico is in danger of elimination.

''Mentally and physically we will have to recover from this because this was quite painful, this defeat,'' Mexico coach Leonardo Cuellar said.

Japan pushed forward when it had the ball and defended with commitment without it. All of which left Mexico overrun at midfield and made for a frustrating afternoon for Mexico captain Maribel Dominguez. Early on, she was crowded off the ball, ending a promising move initiated by Stephany Mayor on the right wing.

Sawa put Japan ahead shortly afterward, getting to Aya Miyama's free kick and sending a header past Cecilia Santiago from close range. Two minutes later, with a deft touch that took the ball past two defenders, Ohno scored with a shot into the roof of the net.

Dominguez found herself alone facing three Japanese defenders in the 33rd minute. But her attempt was stopped, and although Veronica Perez was lucky to get another chance from the rebound, it was sent harmlessly wide. Perez's free kick a minute later was easily gathered by Japan keeper Ayumi Kaihori.

Another header from Sawa - this time from Miyama's corner kick - all but ended the game in the 39th. The 16-year-old Santiago should not have been beaten at the near post, but the youngest goalkeeper in tournament history was left exposed by her weak defense.

Cuellar appeared to wave the white flag in the 62nd minute when he removed an ineffective Dominguez for Kenti Robles, a defender.

''The doctors were a little bit concerned about Maribel and we decided to take her off so she can play in the game against New Zealand,'' he said. ''She is a strong-willed player and she did what she could, but she's not at a 100 percent.''

Japan coach Norio Sasaki warned against the rising expectations surrounding his team.

''It's an honor to be counted among the contenders for the final winner, but we need to go step by step,'' he said. ''We are continuously improving. It's an ongoing process and we would like to get even better.''