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HomeWorld Cup3:1 against Norway: Japan advance to the quarter-finals in style

3:1 against Norway: Japan advance to the quarter-finals in style

The arguably best team of the preliminary round met the unconvincing Norwegians in the round of 16. Japan played to their strengths and celebrated their place in the quarter-finals after an unchallenged 3:1 victory over Norway.

Compared to the 4-0 win over Spain, coach Futoshi Ikeda made three changes: playmaker Hasegawa returned to the starting eleven in place of Hayashi, Tanaka and Fujino were preferred to Ueki and Naomoto. With nine points from three games and a goal difference of 11-0, the Nadeshiko went into this match as favourites against a Norway team that had not been entirely convincing in the group stage.

Coach Hege Riise made only one change to her line-up after the final 6-0 win over the Philippines on the last day of the preliminary round, which meant late qualification for the last 16: Barcelona’s Engen replaced Arsenal’s Maanum in midfield. Hansen, who had been the focus of attention after her sharp criticism of Riise, was again given a starting berth despite the furore surrounding her. Former world player Hegerberg was again only on the bench, as she had been recently after suffering a groin injury before the goalless draw with Switzerland.

Norway come back despite early own goal

The Japanese took control of the game from the start and tried to play their variable and possession-oriented game. Miyazawa (1.), Shimizu (6.) and Tanaka (14.) did not score first, but a short time later the ball was in the Norwegian net: A cross from Miyazawa was unfortunately deflected by Engen against the direction of Mikalsen into her own goal for 1:0 for Japan (15.).

Again, Japan kept the pressure on and made the Norwegian backline swim again and again, but the surprising equaliser was scored: After a strong cross by Böe Risa, Reiten climbed highest at the penalty spot, relatively unchallenged, and placed the ball unstoppably into the left corner with a well-placed header (20th).

Spurred on by the unexpected goal, the Norwegians played more courageously and managed to take the wind out of Nadeshiko’s sails, at least for the time being. The game became more even, with few goal-scoring opportunities. Japan kept combining forward, but hardly managed to overcome the Norwegians, who were now standing securely, which was also due to a lack of precision in the final pass.

Norwegian comeback too late

The second period began like the first, with Japan moving towards goal and Norway prone to mistakes. It came as no surprise that the Scandinavians were involuntarily involved in the second Japanese goal. A dangerous situation had already been cleared up, but Böe Risa made a serious mistake in her own sixteen and played the ball straight into the path of Shimizu, who deflected it off Engen and into the net from close range to make it 2-1 (50th).

The Nadeshiko then dominated the game, barely allowing Norway to breathe and patiently waiting for the next Norwegian mistake to create a big chance. Around 70 per cent possession, however, rarely led to clear goal-scoring opportunities, but Ikeda’s team was no longer forced to make any major efforts because of the score.

It was only in the final quarter of an hour that the Norwegians rallied after the substitution of Hegerberg, and Saevik (77th) and Maanum (79th) scored the first goals of the second half. Japan, however, once again proved to be ice-cold in their transition movement and scored through Miyazawa to make it 3:1 (81.). Yamashita prevented the game from getting tense again in the final minutes with a brilliant save (90.+1).

While the Norwegians have to go home, Japan can prepare for the quarter-finals. There, either world champions USA or Olympic runners-up Sweden will be waiting for them next Friday at 9.30 am.

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