LEVERKUSEN, GERMANY – Veteran midfielder Homare Sawa scored a hat trick as Japan romped into the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup with a 4-0 thrashing of Mexico on Friday afternoon.
Two goals in the space of as many first-half minutes from Sawa and Shinobu Ono put Norio Sasaki’s side in control and Sawa netted her second header before sealing victory 10 minutes from time to send Japan into the last eight for the first time since the 1995 tournament in Sweden.
Japan, 2-1 winners over New Zealand on Monday, improved to six points from two games, securing a top-two finish in Group B ahead of their final game against England in Augsburg on Tuesday.
“The players really dug in and defended well before Mexico had a chance to build a rhythm. They have all set the bar high and want to keep battling on,” said Japan coach Sasaki.
Japan set its stalls out early and took the lead after 13 minutes after Kozue Ando got sandwiched by Natalie Vinti and Natalie Garcia to win a free kick.
Aya Miyama, whose superb free kick clinched victory against the Kiwis, sent over an inch-perfect delivery for Sawa to head in at the far post.
Japanese fans had barely finished celebrating that goal when Yuki Nagasato fed Ono to beat two defenders and smash an unstoppable shot past Cecilia Santiago to double the lead two minutes later.
The shell-shocked Mexicans had to wait until the 25th minute to launch their first real attack, which finished with Maribel Dominguez firing well off target.
But they fell even further behind as Miyama and Sawa combined again to bring Japan a third goal heading toward the interval.
Miyama whipped in a leftwing corner and Sawa lost her marker to glance past Santiago at the near post.
Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori was given her first real test four minutes after the break, pulling off a flying save from Stephany Mayor, but Nagasato went close to making it 4-0 with a shot that hit rattled the post on 56 minutes.
Japan’s all-time leading scorer, Sawa completed the demolition with her 78th international goal, sweeping home after good work on the right flank from Yukari Kinga.
“I have surprised myself. I never thought I would score three goals. I am delighted,” said Sawa.