PARCHAL, PORTUGAL – Women’s world champion Japan warmed up for a highly anticipated rematch with the United States by beating Denmark 2-0 on Friday to make it two wins out of two at the invitational Algarve Cup in Portugal.
Yuika Sugasawa opened her account for Nadeshiko Japan, 2-1 winners over Norway in their opener on Wednesday, early in the second half and Shinobu Ono pounced on sloppy goalkeeping to seal victory with a late second.
The Americans, who launched their title defense with a 5-0 thrashing of the Danes in Lagos, defeated Norway 2-1 in a later match in Group B.
Japan coach Norio Sasaki made eight changes to the team that started against Norway, handing 18-year-old Mai Kyokawa her first senior national team start.
Denmark goalkeeper Stina Petersen made saves on shots by Kyokawa and Megumi Takase in a first half that featured few highlights.
But Japan made the breakthrough on 52 minutes when Sugasawa got a toe to a low cross from Yukari Kinga and prodded past Petersen.
Ono capitalized on a botched clearance from Petersen to clip home the second in the second minute of time added on for stoppages.
“I made eight member changes but we were able to play with flavor from defense through to attack,” said Sasaki. “Sugasawa showed great movement and ability to get behind the defense.”
Japan and the U.S., the defending Algarve champions, meet in their final Group B game on Monday. The game is a rematch of the Women’s World Cup final won by Japan 3-1 on penalties after a pulsating 2-2 draw after 120 minutes last summer in Germany.
Group A features China, Germany, Iceland and Sweden, while Group C brings together host Portugal, Hungary, Ireland and Wales.
The 12 teams are split into three groups that play in a round-robin format. Groups A and B, containing the strongest ranked teams, are the only ones in contention to win the title.
Group winners from A and B will contest the final on Wednesday, with the runners-up playing for third place and those that finished third in the two groups playing for fifth. The teams in Group C are playing for places 7-12.
The tournament serves as an important part of Japan’s build-up to this summer’s London Olympics.