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.
46′ – Couple of one-touch passes combined with a long ball over the top puts Ogimi in right away for Japan. Kennedy just nudges her off the ball, letting it run to Williams.
52′ – Kerr’s pace, as expected, continues to give Japan problems as she drives deep into Japan’s end before crossing towards the six. Kaihori reads perfectly though and falls on it before Simon can get to it.
54′ – Almost a very costly giveaway by Japan in their own end, as Sakaguchi stumbles over the ball, letting Australia intercept and pass quickly to Kerr. Japan stand off her, letting the winger get in the box and try to pass it into the far corner, but Kaihori goes down and holds well.
56′ – Gorry tries to take on the entire Japanese defense herself with her dribbling but gets it poked away. It goes right back to the trailing Van Egmond, who rockets a shot over. It’s picking up here…
59′ – That would’ve been the goal of this World Cup or any World Cup. Ohno dribbles centrally before spraying wide to Naho, who dribbles into the box. The former Seattle star teases on the ball with some dragbacks before backheeling into the path of Ariyoshi’s overlapping run. Ariyoshi crosses near post to Miyama, whose backheel goes wide. Stunning football.
61′ – Ogimi whips a shot wide. Japan knocking on the door.
67′ – SUB – De Vanna, who’s had a more limited impact in this one, comes off for Larissa Crummer for the Matildas.
72′ – SUB – Japan makes an attacking switch of their own, with Mana Iwabuchi coming on for Ohno, who had a lively match.
76′ – SUB – Australia bring on Michelle Heyman for Gorry. Stajcic really going for it here.
82′ – It’s a war of attrition as the match goes ragged thanks to some tired legs and the heat. Japan can’t do anything with a corner, while Australia get it wrong on the counter through Heyman.
85′ – Astonishing miss from Japan! Naho takes the ball on the near flank and drives in a tempting cross. Ogimi’s there to volley near the six and hits it wide! Will Japan regret that spurned opportunity?
86′ – GOAL – Japan (Iwabuchi) – Err. Maybe not. Miyama delivers a corner that Japan keep hacking away at as Australia can’t clear. Iwashimizu has a point blank shot saved well by Williams, but the rebound is poked by the defender to the far post and Iwabuchi who sweeps into the empty net. Heartbreak for Australia.
89′ – SUB – Australia bring in Ashleigh Sykes for Simon. Would Chris take Kyah Simon off needing a goal? No, he would not.
90′ – SUB – Japan brings on Homare Sawa for Sakaguchi. Tick, tick, tick…
90′ + 4′ – Australia get one last Hail Mary through a Van Egmond shot from range, but Kaihori saves and holds.
FT – It’s a deserved win for Japan. The conditions probably suited them, as their technical skill allowed them to defeat Australia’s robust pressing game, which was limited by the heat. They created the bulk of the chances and managed to thwart Australia’s counterattacks with some nice defending and a few well-timed tactical fouls. Japan will be favored to reach the final, while Australia will look towards the 2016 Rio Olympics to contend for silverware.