Japan-Sweden ends all square
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The Women’s Olympic Football Tournament at London 2012 witnessed its first goalless draw as Japan and Sweden earned a share of the spoils in the Group F meeting between the two teams in Coventry.

The world champions were unchanged going into the game, while the Swedes made two changes. Annica Svensson came in for Lina Nilsson and Johanna Almgren surprisingly had to replace skipper Nilla Fischer who was suffering from a tight hamstring.

The Scandinavians were the slightly dominant side in the opening minutes as they defended very well as a compact unit in the centre of the pitch and did not allow Japan to penetrate their final third. Offensively, Sweden struggled to bring Lotta Schelin into play and were increasingly reliant on long-range efforts. Sara Thunebro, Sofia Jakobsson and Caroline Seger all had half-chances, while Japan only tested Hedvig Lindahl once when Aya Sameshima’s effort was comfortably parried.

The semi-final clash between these two teams at Germany 2011 yielded four goals as Japan ran out 3-1 winners, but this was altogether a tighter affair. However, the game opened up more in the second half as Norio Sasaki tried a different approach after the interval.

Instead of trying to attack through the centre of the pitch, they brought the flanks into play more and it almost paid off instantly. In the 46th minute, Nahomi Kawasumi stepped up the pace on the left wing and took a nice shot from just inside the box, but Lindahl made a great save.

Kawasumi was at the centre of the action again, passing to Shinobu Ohno who played the ball to Homare Sawa. Lindahl was once again equal to her attempt and the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year was substituted shortly afterwards.

Lindahl was on hand to deny Yuki Ogimi and Ohno before the introduction of Sweden forward Kosovare Asllani encouraged their brightest spell. Her presence in attack distracted the Japan defence sufficiently to allow Schelin to shoot just outside the box before Asllani went close herself with a header.

On the third and final matchday of Group F, Sweden meet Canada in Newcastle whereas Japan face South Africa in Cardiff. Both matches will take place on Tuesday.