THE DAY REPLAYED – There were contrasting wins for Japan and England today, with the former qualifying for their first FIFA Women’s World Cup quarter-final since 1995 and the latter moving on the cusp of the last eight thanks to a hard-fought comeback victory, which denied New Zealand their first point on the global stage.
Japan were imperious in overwhelming Mexico 4-0, with veteran superstar Homare Sawa grabbing the first hat-trick of the tournament. El Tri were never allowed to find the form they showed in the second half against England, after finding themselves 2-0 down by the quarter-hour mark in Leverkusen. Mexico were 3-0 up by the interval, while Sawa completed her treble in the final ten minutes.
The day's second match in Dresden saw New Zealand go ahead through a first-half opener from Sarah Gregorius, before Jill Scott restored parity just the past the hour mark and Jill Clarke crashed home a winner nine minutes from time.
Japan, on six points, need just a point to hold on to top spot in Group B ahead of remaining opponents England, who themselves have a three-point buffer - and a +5 goal difference advantage - over Mexico, with New Zealand eliminated.
Goal of the day
Japan - Mexico 15’, Shinobu Ohno
While it was Sawa who stole the goalscoring headlines, it was Shinobu Ohno’s 15th-minute strike that shone brightest. Yuki Nagasato displayed impressive tight control to hold off a number of lurking defenders before slipping the ball to Ohno on the edge of the penalty area. The diminutive forward jinked past one defender and in a flash, blasted the ball inside Cecilia Santiago’s post.
Normally vocal New Zealand coach John Herdman was initially content to quietly view the match from a position high in the gallery at Dresden’s Rudolf-Harbig-Stadion. However, upon the Football Ferns taking the lead, the first time they had done so in their eight FIFA Women’s World Cup matches, Herdman returned to his normal position on the sideline, before again taking a position upon high for a period during the second half. Nearby in the stands was New Zealand football icon Wynton Rufer, who was also at his country's first match against Japan. Rufer, who has appeared during the tournament offering special comments on German TV, made his name over a long and successful career with Werder Bremen.
While Homare Sawa’s hat-trick was the statistical highlight of Japan’s 4-0 win over Mexico, it was the connection between the goalscorer and Aya Miyama that provided the impetus for the win. Miyama displayed her dead-ball prowess on numerous occasions at China 2007, and the 26-year-old proved she has lost none of her ability, with a high-quality free-kick against New Zealand in their tournament opener. This time Sawa’s two headed goals were set up with pinpoint precision by Miyama’s magic right foot.
32 – At 32 years and 298 days, Homare Sawa is the oldest player to score a treble across the six editions of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Previously, the record was held by Brazil’s Sissi, who bagged a hat-trick against Mexico in 1999 at the age of 32 and 17 days.
“It was tough out there today and it’s just frustrating that we didn’t get there in the end. We couldn’t control England’s momentum. I’m always proud of these girls, they worked extremely hard and have sacrificed a lot to get here,” John Herdman, New Zealand coach.
Saturday 2 July
Korea DPR-Sweden, 14.00 CET, Augsburg
USA-Colombia, 18.00 CET, Sinsheim
Have your say
Have Group B top seeds Japan got what it takes to make an impression in the knockout stage at Germany 2011, after their impressive win against Mexico today?