PRE – It wasn’t always by the most glamorous of performances, but Japan did end up winning all three of their group matches whilst rotating their squad and underlining their status as one of the favorites to make it all the way to the final. Opponents Holland are in tough. They beat New Zealand unimpressively, lost to China unimpressively, and battled back gamely to draw with Canada. But they’ve also shown little to suggest they can cause a shock here.
6′ – Holland get the first decent half-chance of the match, as Spitse corks a shot from about thirty yards over the bar. Japan already doing well to defend deep and stop the Dutch from playing through them at the edge of the area.
7′ – So about that “defending deep” thing. Right after I typed that, Martens plays a beautiful through ball on the turf towards Melis, who plays on the shoulder of Kumagai expertly. She runs through and has a clear chance in the box but utterly whiffs on her shot and falls. Bizarre.
10′ – GOAL – Japan (Ariyoshi) – Miyama jets down the nearside flank and drives a cross into the box that a pair of Dutch defenders miss. Flick header from an open Ogimi comes off the bar, and Van Dongen makes an absolute mess of the clearance, hitting it right back to an unmarked Ariyoshi. The full-back fires low and hard to inside the far post. Self-destructive defending.
11′ – Holland almost hit right back. Melis whips a cross in that goes over Miedema’s head, with Martens missing with a sliding attempt a split second later.
13′ – Another nervy moment for the Dutch. Off an innocuous looking backpass from Van den Berg, Geurts is almost caught napping, as she takes too many touches and is forced to put it into touch by Ohno.
19′ – Miedema keeps her legs churning and forces some serious pressure on the Japanese backline, with Sameshima forced into an awkward backpass to Kaihori. The keeper has to scramble it out into touch.
21′ – Japan really should’ve done more with that. Naho gets it out wide on the right and catches the Dutch defense totally out, with nobody within a mile of Aya Miyama in the box. The shot from the veteran veers well wide.
22′ – Movement, movement, movement. Sameshima is allowed to dribble towards the box before playing a slow one-two with Ohno. Sameshima tries to volley home Ohno’s chip for what would be a spectacular goal, but it isn’t on target.
24′ – Beautiful interplay, as Japan pings it around before Ohno posts up and squares for Naho, who dribbles a bit before sliding a shot wide. Holland being cut apart.
29′ – The Dutch get caught in possession trying to build out of the back, with Ogimi getting a foot in to create an opportunity the other way. Ohno passes it back to Ogimi, who shoots the ball wide of the target.
33′ – More slick passing to the endline and a deep run by Ariyoshi. She crosses short of the endline, with Ohno in space, but the forward mistimes her header. It drops for Utsugi, whose awkward sliding shot is wide.
42′ – Sameshima rumbles to the endline again to win a corner for Japan. Geurts manages to get a one-fisted punch on the delivery, with Holland trying to counter through Martens. Too many passes though allows Japan to clear with a mighty thump.
44′ – Kaihori falls on a deflected cross from Martens. That’s about the bulk of the danger thus far for the Japanese keeper.
45′ – The Dutch already look gassed from doing all the chasing with Japan pinging it about. Ogimi gets wide and is under no pressure whatsoever as she floats a cross in to Ohno who whips a header wide. That would’ve likely been curtains for the Europeans.
HT – A rather easy half for the holders, who wasted a few chances but made the most of a grievous Holland error in defense. They’re bossing possession and creating many opportunities in the box thanks to lacking ball pressure on service as well as slack marking in the box. The Dutch look like breaking through on occasion thanks to their pace, but they just aren’t technically proficient enough to avoid the slight errors in their passes that allow Japan to pounce and clear the danger. They aren’t out of it by any means, but it’s an uphill climb for the debutants.
48′ – Holland are going to have to do much better than that to equalize. Van de Donk finds a rare pocket of space to dribble through and slides a ball to Miedema in the box. The forward is hesitant on the ball in the box though, and the ball eventually cycles out for a long, hopeless shot off-target.
50′ – YELLOW CARD – Japan (Ariyoshi) – Ariyoshi goes in the book for a tactical foul on Martens, sticking a leg out and blatantly tripping Martens up as she is about to go into the box. It results in a dangerous free kick at the edge of the box on the near side. Holland promptly wastes it, hitting it into the wall.
52′ – Holland get a corner soon after but can’t do anything of note with it.
53′ – SUB – The Dutch bring off Van de Donk, bringing on Kirsten Van de Ven. Again, why not just make that sub at the half if you aren’t even going to give Van de Donk ten minutes in the second half?
54′ – Japan almost finish it off. Miyama dribbles through space and dishes to a wide open Naho at the edge of the area. She tries to cross across the six but has her effort deflected almost inside of Geurts’ near post.
56′ – Japan pounces on another lazy pass and begins a counter in the Dutch end through an Utsugi tackle. Ogimi gets it and tries a backheel into the path of Ohno, but Dekker tackles it away to save the Dutch. Ariyoshi snuffs an attempt to counter up the other way.
66′ – SUB – Japan bring on Mana Iwabuchi, young attacking golden girl, for Shinobu Ohno.
68′ – Japan win a corner off a deflected shot. Holland half-clear the corner, with Utsugi twisting and striking a fierce half-volley from the edge of the area, but it goes well wide.
72′ – Near the penalty spot, Miedema posts up, juggles, and passes to Van de Ven, but the sub screws her shot wide.
73′ – Van Lunteren drives a cross into the box for Holland, but a pair of players mistime their header, allowing Japan to collect.
74′ – Miyama lofts a ball over the Dutch backline looking for the run of Ogimi. The Japanese forward lets it bounce towards the far edge of the area before attempting a Van Basten-esque volley. She doesn’t catch it well though, and it goes well wide.
76′ – Holland almost level things up! Spitse delivers a corner headed back towards the far post. Sameshima bizarrely hits it as she’s facing her own goal and boxing out a Dutch player. Kaihori punches away, and the follow-up shot from Van de Ven is blocked.
78′ – GOAL – Japan (Sakaguchi) – Holland pay the price for their profligacy. The Dutch turn it over in their own end again, with Naho prodding on for Iwabuchi, who hits first time to Ogimi in the box. She pauses, backheels to Miyama, who passes back to the edge of the area, though a Iwabuchi dummy to a wide open Sakaguchi who lashes home from the edge of the area. Pure magic. Game over for Holland.
80′ – SUB – Homare Sawa comes on Naho, getting a little run out for Japan.
83′ – Geurts forced off her line by a Miyama chip, and she punches just about clear to keep Holland alive.
86′ – Van de Ven fires right at Kaihori after cutting inside. Holland look out of ideas.
86′ – SUB – Holland bring on Tessel Middag for van Dongen. Yes, trailing almost all game, Holland waited until now to use their second sub. Roger Reinjers everyone!
89′ – Van de Ven, who’s looked lively since coming on, drives a cross close to the six that has Kaihori scrambling off her line. Her punch is a strong one though. Middag’s low follow-up is blocked.
90′ + 2′ – GOAL – Holland (Van de Ven) – Oh dear. That looks destined to end up on blooper reels for years to come. Van de Ven heads a tame, bouncing cross that Kaihori should hold easily. She doesn’t. It bounces off her body and in. Unbelievable error.
90′ + 3′ – Nervy moments for sure. Van Lunteren crosses towards Miedema at the penalty spot, and she tries to volley but sees it blocked. Kaihori springs off her line and dives on it.
FT – Japan advance in a (mostly) assured display. The last few minutes were a little shaky, but they deserved the win on the day. Japan put together some nice moves and sealed the deal with a sumptuous second goal. Holland just couldn’t keep up technically, showing some poor decision making as well. Roger Reinjers was, again, outclassed as well, making just two subs and using just one after the hour mark despite clearly needing to make a change to shake things up. Holland may have potential, but they likely need another boss to reach it.