(Note: My primary computer’s in the shop, so you aren’t getting tactical lineup pics until I get it back.)
PRE – Lost in the hype surrounding the Germany-France match a day earlier, this showdown between the top two powers in Asia could be an instant classic. Australia are fresh off their upset over Brazil and looked formidable in the group stages. Holders Japan eased past Holland despite the close scoreline and have looked composed throughout. The winner of this match will likely be odds on to end up in the final, and the contrast in styles should make this a fascinating encounter.
8′ – After a bit of a feeling out process, Japan get the first real chance of the match. Naho lifts a ball from center circle towards the box and the stride of Ohno. She tries to hit it on the bounce to try and take advantage of Williams being well off her line, but the half-volley goes over.
12′ – Close for Australia, as Van Egmond slips through a challenge and plays a weighted ball for Kyah Simon in the area. She and Iwashimizu both dive for it, with Kaihori coming off her line to collect when neither reach it.
20′ – Miyama holds up on the near sideline and plays a nice ball through to the underlapping run of Sameshima. Sameshima’s cutback is right to Australia hand helps spring a counter through Gorry. The diminutive midfielder’s final ball is right to Japan though.
22′ – Williams misplaces a pass to the midfield stripe after a backpass, and Japan pounce. Japan combine at lightning-quick pace to get it wide before crossing in from Naho towards Ohno. The near post finish is wide though, and a great chance is spurned by the holders.
27′ – YELLOW CARD – Japan (Iwashimizu) – That’s probably the Mona Lisa of obstruction fouls. Kerr cuts inside and tries to play the ball past the Japanese defender, but she steps into her and checks her to the ground. Easy card and dangerous free kick. Kennedy aims near post, but her effort bounces wide.
31′ – De Vanna uses her pace to burn up the far sideline on the counter before crossing low to a wide open Katrina Gorry. Gorry is indecisive with it though and hits a tame shot that’s blocked at the edge of the area.
33′ – Sakaguchi plays it out wide to Ohno, who holds her run just enough to keep her onside. She holds up inside the area before shuttling back to Miyama, who rips a shot that’s tipped over.
34′ – Somehow, Iwashimizu is able to squeeze into some space and get a free header on goal. Kellond-Knight stops it on the line though, and Australia escape.
44′ – It’s a sweltering day of half-chances, and after a lot of Japanese possession with little end product, Australia get a half-chance of their own on the break. Kerr rushes through midfield but has it poked away as she goes down, and Simon latches onto the loose ball with a thumping shot from range that Kaihori holds well.
HT – Japan on top at the break. The holders have had the better of the chances despite looking vulnerable on the counter, with Sameshima’s underlapping runs looking particularly dangerous. At the same time though, both sides look to be drowning in the heat on the turf, making this one a war of attrition that hasn’t been pretty to watch given how entertaining both sides have been in earlier matches. It might come down to bench depth in the end here.