Japan believe their women’s World Cup semi-final win over England yesterday was just reward for their determination and not a fluke after a stoppage time own-goal sent the defending champions through to a title showdown against the US.
Japan beat the Americans on penalties to win the last World Cup in Germany four years ago and remain on a course to defend their title, albeit after a fortuitous 2-1 win over a heartbroken England in Edmonton.
The match seemed destined to be heading to extra-time after both sides converted first-half penalties but the Asian champions were gifted the victory when Laura Bassett unwittingly diverted an attempted clearance into the back of her own net.
While England was left devastated, Japan coach Norio Sasaki told reporters his team deserved to win because they had been willing to risk defeat by pushing forward in the dying moments.
“The goal was a result of everyone pushing us on with their support and came from our determination to win,” he said.
“England played really well.
“I want my players to go into the final not being afraid of making mistakes.”
Despite currently holding both the world and Asian titles, it was still a historic result for Japan, who had never previously beaten England in a senior international in either men’s or women’s soccer.
Captain Aya Miyama, who calmly slotted home a 33rd minute penalty to give her team the lead, had some sympathy for England but said her focus was on winning the final and avenging Japan’s loss to the US in the 2012 London Olympics gold medal match.
“All we’ve been thinking about is winning the championship,” she said.
“It was an unlucky (own) goal for England but our determination pushed us through.
“(The Americans) took the Olympic gold medal but we aren’t going to hand over the World Cup. That is the kind of spirit we will play with.”
Japanese midfielder Nahomi Kawasumi, whose low cross into the penalty area led to the own goal, said she fired the ball in early after spotting a tiny opportunity.
“I could see the England full-back dropping back and I thought if I could set myself up I would be able to loft the ball into a good position,” Kawasumi said.
“We are relieved that we have finally got to the final.” - Reuters