Japan recorded a famous 1-0 extra-time win to eliminate reigning champions and host nation Germany from the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ and reach the semi-finals for the first time.
Substitute Karina Maruyama scored the decisive goal on 108 minutes as Germany suffered a first defeat for 16 matches, dating back to the quarter-final stage at USA 1999. Japan will now face the winner of Sunday’s semi-final between Sweden and Australia.
Germany suffered a major blow within the opening minutes as Kim Kulig was forced off with a knee injury. Kulig rose well for a back-post Melanie Behringer corner, which just looped over the crossbar, but the midfield starlet landed awkwardly. Bianca Schmidt came on at full-back while Linda Bresonik slotted into midfield.
Japan struggled to get out of their own half in the early stages, and for a second it looked like Celia Okoyino Da Mbabi had got the opener on 14 minutes as she flicked a long ball goalwards, only for goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori to just get a hand on the ball.
Mizuho Sakaguchi fired in from long range with Japan’s first effort on target a few moments later, however German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer was untroubled.
Midway through the half it again momentarily looked that Germany had the opener. Behringer’s free-kick from the left sideline was perfectly weighted to the back post, but captain Kerstin Garefrekes was only able to propel the ball with her thigh, allowing Japan to clear from near the goal line.
Japan’s best chance of the half arrived on the half-hour as Yuki Nagasato pulled her shot wide from an angle with only the goalkeeper to beat.
A minute later, Behringer fired just wide from the edge of the penalty area, then almost immediately Mbabi seemed to be in on goal but Kaihori was out well to smother the shot just in time.
However, despite the majority of chances favouring the home side, the match settled in the latter stages of the first half with Japan making some good progress in midfield.
Germany again came close to breaking the deadlock ten minutes after the interval with a Behringer free-kick, again delivered with precision from a wide area, finding Simone Laudehr only for the header to be cleared off the line by Yukari Kinga.
Then it was Japan’s turn to enjoy some good moments of sustained pressure, with Aya Miyama hitting the side-netting, although Angerer perhaps had the shot covered.
Germany had the better half-chances during the second half but Japan maintained some good midfield possession, often working some good short-passing combinations.
Arguably Germany’s best opportunity saw Garefrekes break into penalty area and pick out Behringer, only for the No7 to sky her snapshot. Germany heaped on the pressure in the closing minutes but to no avail, with extra time required for the second time today.
The best chance during the first period of extra time saw Inka Grings have a sight of goal but she fired wide from a 45 degree angle. It was to be the prolific striker’s last involvement with Alexandra Popp coming on as a replacement.
A free-kick from Miyama nearly resulted in disaster for Germany as the ball momentarily looked like it would get past Angerer amid a sea of bodies.
The Arena Im Allerpark in Wolfsburg was then stunned into momentary silence as unheralded substitute Maruyama scored the decisive goal after chasing down a long ball and slotting her shot inside the far post from an angle.
Almost immediately Behringer hit a superb drive which Kaihori did well to push over the crossbar, while Mbabi saw her header also turned over the bar.
Player of the match: Homare Sawa (Japan)