Japanese genius fells favourites
© Foto-net

A superb Japan performance produced the biggest shock of New Zealand 2008 thus far as favourites USA were beaten 3-2 in a hugely entertaining encounter.

The Americans had been expected to cruise against their diminutive Asian opponents but proved no match for a Young Nadeshiko side whose superior movement and individual skill enabled them to twice them come from behind to claim victory. 

Initially, it appeared the match was running strictly to the expected script when USA broke the deadlock inside three minutes, Vicki DiMartino bundling home after Saki Nakamura had failed to deal with a searching long throw from Cloee Colohan.

However, the first half turned into something of a one-woman show, with Japan No10 Mana Iwabuchi, a skilful, beautifully-balanced player, using her low centre of gravity to carve out chance after chance for the impressive Japanese.  It was certainly no more than Hiroshi Yoshida's side deserved when Iwabuchi capped a magnificent showing by ramming home a 32nd-minute equaliser after Chiaki Shimada's initial shot had come back off the crossbar.

Even when the US started the second half as they had the first, scoring early through a speculative Mandy Laddish shot that slipped past Nakamura, Japan again refused to accept defeat. The goals that brought victory would have graced any stage, Natsumi Kameoka smashing home a superb 40-yard strike before substitute Kei Yoshioka found space to cushion the ball on her chest and loft home a volleyed winner with the outside of her foot.