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After the devastation in Japan, it is somewhat surprising that this team has reached this stage and have done as well as they have. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprise though, they have use this devastation as a rallying point; in fact this team is incredible to watch and we will see if they can continue their good play as of late.
Today, they play Sweden for a chance to face the U.S team, who dispatched the ineffective French team earlier this afternoon. The match is on the verge of starting in what should be a great game…you wouldn’t think the Japanese team would match up well against the bigger Swedish players-but speed is on their side and they can play freely as they did last weekend playing against the expected winners; the Germans. They should not have won that game and if they make it, they probably shouldn’t beat the U.S either; but that is why they play the games.
The pressure is on and they will have to play a great defensive game against an attacking team like the Swedes. Watching the smaller Japanese players is quite interesting, their game is possession oriented and crisp precision passing reminiscent of the men’s Brazilian team.
10 minutes in: Sweden strikes due to a breakdown near the box from the Japanese defender, the Swedish player intercepted the wayward pass and her speed carried her close enough to unleash on the goalkeeper with an excellent left footed shot on goal; the goalkeeper had little to no chance and the Swedes have taken the early lead, now the game officially begins.
This is turning into an incredible game…A great goal by Japan in the 18th minute… although, it may have been an own goal; A long run by the Japan’s midfielder who seemed to be alone roaming, until the ball was centered into the box where the crowdedness and confusion took care of the rest. Own goal or not, this opportunity was all manufactured by the small Japanese player, their speed and perseverance.
Half way through the first half, the great play continues with an incredibly wide open game on both sides with good ball control. Myama has had several opportunities up until this point and Japan plays keep away in the midfield but their lack of pure scoring has limited their overall effectiveness. On the other side of things, the Swedish team has somewhat disappeared after their accidental goal.
We go to half time with the Japanese team seemingly in control and we should look to see the same thing in the second half of this match if the Swedes don’t make adjustments.
Play starts again with the Swedes looking to start the action, actually gaining momentum throughout this half. In an incredible sequence in the 59th minute, Japan strikes with a beautiful header by Sawa into the empty net left vacant by the Swedish goalkeeper who gambled at the worst possible moment. The goal was made possible with contributions with several players who seem to be getting better throughout the tournament. This is Sawa’s 79th goal after starting her career at 15 years old.
Minutes later in the 64th minute, Japan strikes again with an improbable goal with another situation in which the net was unguarded when the eager goalkeeper decided to charge once again; the results would suggest she should remain in goal but her instincts would suggest otherwise.
Great goal and might be goal of the tournament up to this point. Now up 3-1, there can be no major breakdowns like we saw in the beginning of the match, if they are to hold on to this lead. The Swedish team seems to have no clue on what to do defensively or offensively against this tactical brilliance by the brave Japanese team. The U.S should take notice and start preparing for this skillful onslaught.
Kawasumi comes off the field followed by Ono, two players who left their mark on this game; the focus is defense at this point, but the offensive pressure remains and the attack remains relentless.
The match is over and anyone who witnessed this game saw two teams who played at different levels after the first 10 to 15 minutes. Looking forward to the finals, Japan should have a shot at beating the American team; they are on an emotional journey that would inspire a whole nation. America looks to continue its dominance against this team which they have beaten 22 out of 23 matches…but maybe were in line for another miracle.
I know I’ll be watching and so will everyone in Japan.