England displayed some typical fighting spirit to thwart Japanese hopes of an all-Asian semi-final with Korea DPR, twice coming from behind to prevail on penalties and continue their progress at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup New Zealand 2008.
Japan's imperious form in the group phase had many people tipping them to progress to the semis with ease, particularly with England having toiled in their final group match against Asian opposition in Korea Republic. Lois Fidler's tenacious side made light of the odds, however, refusing to buckle against the Asian favourites and earning reward for their unshakeable belief with a place in the last four.
It had all started so well for the Young Nadeshiko when Mana Iwabuchi delightfully set up Chinatsu Kira for the opening goal after only eight minutes. Hiroshi Yoshida's gifted charges continued to carve out the first-half opportunities only to be let down by some sloppy finishing, while the English made up for their technical inferiority with some old-fashioned grit and determination, complemented by occasional moments of genuine quality. Lucy Staniforth produced one such moment with a firm, precise drive on the stroke of half-time and although Iwabuchi restored Japan's lead with just ten minutes remaining, Isobel Christiansen's late, late wonder goal took the tie into extra time.
The other game
While it was asking too much of USA and Korea Republic to match the fireworks served up in the early kick-off, the Americans created a little bit of history as they set up a semi-final date with Germany, maintaining their country's record of always reaching the last four in FIFA women's competitions.
Courtney Verloo's opportunistic early and a delightful goal from Kristie Mewis set the USA on the way to semi-final number 13, with Verloo and Vicki DiMartino adding to the tally to ensure that Hyun Young Lee's second-half double counted for little.
Isobel Christiansen (ENG)
England were on the brink of elimination when the tireless midfielder took one look from 35 yards and fired a memorable shot into the top corner of the Japanese net to take a dramatic tie into extra time. Yet it was difficult to decide what was the more impressive: Christiansen's 40-yard thunderbolt or her steadfast refusal to accept defeat.
What they said
"I've no idea where that one came from! I just shouted to Dan to set it back to me and I remember thinking: 'Well, this is either going to go in the stands or in the back of the net'. I've never scored a goal like it, I'm not exactly known for my goalscoring, but as soon as I made contact I was like 'It's in! It's in!' And the feeling when it hit the back of the net was just amazing," England's Isobel Christiansen relives her late equaliser.