THE DAY REPLAYED – Saturday’s action saw the winners of a pair of contrasting and equally intriguing quarter-finals join Germany and United States in the last four of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™.
The all-AFC clash between Australia and Japan began as something of a slow burner, but the suspense gradually built until the closing stages, when the defending champions, who had dominated possession, grabbed a late winner.
In the second, highly anticipated fixture between Canada and England in Vancouver, the two teams served up a fascinating battle, featuring a whirlwind start and numerous edge-of-the-seat moments. Backed by a raucous crowd, the Canadians fought hard, but in the end the Three Lionesses’ clinical finishing and stout defending shattered the dreams of the tournament hosts.
Japan and England, having both booked an appearance at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton on 1 July, also known as Canada Day in the host nation, will therefore lock horns for a place in the Final.
Australia 0–1 Japan
England 2-1 Canada
*Goal of the day *
England 2-1 Canada, Christine Sinclair (42)
Pouncing on a handling error from English goalkeeper Karen Bardsley, Christine Sinclair slotted home from close-range to give the Canadians a lifeline in the match. It was not a goal that will be remembered as a classic, but it momentarily gave the expectant crowd in Vancouver real hope of a comeback.
In the end, however, it only served to complete a statistical circle, in which the Canadian captain will forever remain the first and last goalscorer for the Canucks at ‘their’ World Cup.
*Memorable moments *
Summertime rock *
The afternoon heat was stifling in Edmonton – the Australian players were quick to take note during the warm-up, seeking refuge in the shadow of Commonwealth Stadium’s central speakers, which happened to be playing *Thunderstruck by iconic Australian rock band AC/DC at that very moment. Unfortunately, what could have been construed as a good luck sign did not turn out that way, with the Matildas left thunderstruck by Japan’s 87th minute winner.
The coaches of the two teams facing off at BC Place on Saturday had more in common than a simple wish to guide their charges to the semi-finals. In fact, England’s Mark Sampson and Canada’s John Herdman both obtained their coaching licenses via the same well-regarded course administered by the Welsh FA. The coaching course has managed to attract some big-name attendees recently, including Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, David Ginola and Sol Campbell.
In both of Saturday’s encounters, an impact substitute played a pivotal role in her team’s success. Mana Iwabuchi, who came off the bench in the 72nd minute, popped up at just the right moment for Japan, stabbing the winning goal into the net three minutes from time. For England, it was Siobhan Chamberlain, who started on the bench but had to replace starting goalkeeper Karen Bardsley – who had injured an eye – early into the second half, whose introduction proved crucial. After entering the fray, the debutante maintained a cool head under pressure to keep the Canadian attacks at bay and help England advance to the semi-finals for the first time.
1 – Canada’s defeat at the hands of the English leaves USA as the only host nation to have reached the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup, a feat they achieved in 1999, when they emerged victorious from the tournament, and in 2003. The Stars and Stripes are also the only team to have reached the last four in all seven editions of the prestigious competition.
The words *
“We don’t just want to compete with the best, we want to beat the best. And so we still need to make progress. My players are still young, and although right now it’s hard to take, they’ll learn a lot from this experience,” *Alen Stajcic, Australia coach.
*Next matchday *
Tuesday 30 June (all times local)
USA-Germany (Olympic Stadium, Montreal, 19.00)