Japan and USA set up intriguing final
© AFP

THE DAY REPLAYED - On an absorbing and incident-packed semi-final day at the FIFA Women's World Cup Germany 2011™, Japan and USA saw off strong challenges from Sweden and France respectively to set up a mouth-watering final on Sunday. On the tenth FIFA Anti-Discrimination Day, the Nadeshiko made it through to the decider for the very first time, while the Stars and Stripes booked a third appearance in the fixture.

The current Olympic champions and leaders of the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women's World Ranking overcame Bruno Biri's charges 3–1 in Monchengladbach, thanks to a typically determined and ruthless display against opponents who again won plaudits for their slick passing interchanges. Lauren Cheney put Pia Sundhage's team ahead early on, and after France equalised on 55 minutes and began taking the game to their opponents, a trademark powerful header from the indefatigable Abby Wambach restored USA's lead before substitute Alex Morgan sealed victory.

Later in the evening, Japan's tactical discipline and sublime skills proved just too much for Sweden, who opened at a cracking pace but faded towards the end. Homare Sawa’s badly mis-placed pass let in the Europeans to open the scoring in Frankfurt, but the star midfielder later put her side 2–1 in front, turning the game on its head. The Japanese eventually ran out 3–1 winners, in a match in which Thomas Dennerby's team ended up ruing Caroline Seger’s late withdrawal due to a calf injury.

The final now promises an enthralling, top-quality clash of styles, as American power goes up against the slick passing and skill of the Japanese.

For comprehensive information about both semi-finals, follow the links to our match reports in the right navigation.

Results
France 1-3 USA
Japan 3-1 Sweden

Goal of the day
Japan-Sweden, Nahomi Kawasumi (64th minute)
The Scandinavians were slowly but surely wilting in the face of a near error-free display from their opponents when Kawasumi twisted the knife with an extraordinary moment of skill. Sweden goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl dashed from her line, just beating Kozue Ando to an angled ball, but her scuffed clearance only made it as far as the 25-year-old, who took a touch to control before looping an exceptional 35-yard drive over the No1 and into the net.

Memorable moments
Commitment to the fight against discrimination
The semi-final clashes were dedicated to the fight against all forms of discrimination, social injustice and racism. Prior to the national anthems, each of the captains read out a declaration addressed to all players, officials and fans around the world, urging them to act against all forms of discrimination, not only in football, but in every area of community life. The teams and match officials then posed together behind a banner bearing the unmistakable message: 'No to racism'.

Laughter and a big heart
Even prior to an occasion as big as a FIFA Women's World Cup semi-final, there is much to be said for a certain light-heartedness, as shown by both the Swedes and the Japanese on a rainy night in Frankfurt. As normal, the teams took a stroll on the pitch immediately after arriving at the stadium, prompting Jessica Landstrom and Linda Forsberg to seize a bag of footballs and arrange them in the shape of a big heart, by way of welcoming the fans who had already taken their seats. As for Japan, starlet Mana Iwabuchi hammed it up for the benefit of the wire-mounted spider cam, the remarkable device responsible for some of the most striking footage delivered to practically every nation around the world, delighting her team-mates in the process. As it transpired, this unexpected lightness of touch from the otherwise utterly disciplined Japanese turned out a recipe for success.

The stat
100 - The semi-final triumph against France was doubly significant for US keeper Hope Solo. The 29-year-old was banished to the bench at the last FIFA Women's World Cup in China PR four years ago, watching helplessly as her team fell 4–0 to Brazil in the last four. Now, once and for all, that bitter memory is completely erased. Moreover, it was a milestone match for the popular goalkeeper, who earned her 100th international cap.

The quote
“This is a wonderful day, because we've qualified for the third-place play-off. It's all about your philosophy of life, whether you're a glass half-full or glass half-empty person. If there are now parents [in France] thinking football might be a good game for girls, I'd say that's pretty good,” Bruno Bini, France coach.

Next up
Saturday 16 July, third-place play-off
Sweden-France

Sunday 17 July, final
Japan-USA

Have your say
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