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Japan beats Brazil to win Kirin Challenge Cup

by Gus Fielding

Kyodo

Japan lived up to its billing as women’s world champion with a commanding 4-1 win over Brazil on Thursday to capture the three-nation Kirin Challenge Cup title.

Japan drew 1-1 with the United States in the opening game of the London Olympic warmup tournament in Sendai on Sunday but took the title having scored more goals than the Americans, who beat Brazil 3-0 in Chiba on Tuesday.

Brazil captain Daiane gifted the Japanese the opener with a calamitous own goal after 16 minutes and substitute Yuki Nagasato and Aya Miyama both scored in the space of three second-half minutes after Francielle had pulled the South Americans level with a well-taken free kick at the end of the first period.

Substitute Yuika Sugasawa scored the all important fourth, stabbing in Yukari Kinga’s cross in the 89th minute.

Both Japan and Brazil were missing their star players. Women’s World Player of the Year Homare Sawa is recovering from vertigo and Marta, a five-time winner of the same award, cited tiredness from her recent move to Swedish club Tyreso as her reason for not making the trip to the Far East.

Sasaki made three changes to the starting 11 that drew with the U.S., with striker Kozue Ando coming in at Nagasato’s expense, Miho Fukumoto replacing goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori and defender Rumi Utsugi in for Mizuho Sakaguchi.

Brazil spurned a glorious chance to take the lead when Cristiane sent a free header wide and Japan capitalized through a comical own goal at the other end.

Miyama sent a free kick into the danger zone and Aline failed to clear before Daiane stooped to head over her own line.

The Brazilians hit back on the stroke of halftime, as Francielle buried a sweetly struck free kick after Asuna Tanaka had brought her down on the edge of the box, but Japan turned up the heat to take the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half.

Nagasato, on for the ineffective Ando in the 38th minute, headed in Miyama’s cross and both were involved in the third as Miyama swept home after Brazil goalkeeper Andreia could only parry Nagasato’s shot on the turn.