COVENTRY, ENGLAND – World champions Japan were frustrated by a defensive Sweden and held to a 0-0 draw at the London Games on Saturday, a result that keeps both teams in the hunt for a place in the quarterfinals of the women’s soccer competition.
Japan had the better of the chances after turning up the heat in the second-half sunshine in Coventry, but were unable to find a way past goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl, who made a series of important stops to earn her side a clean sheet and a share of the spoils.
Sweden stayed top of the group ahead of Japan on goal difference with both teams on four points from two games. Canada and South Africa were both looking for their first point ahead of their meeting here later in the day.
Japan coach Norio Sasaki named an unchanged side to the one that beat Canada 2-1 on Wednesday, while in the only change to the team that hammered South Africa 4-1, Sara Thunebro took the Sweden captain’s armband from Nilla Fischer, who is nursing a sore hamstring.
Both teams were guilty of giving the ball away cheaply in an untidy first half that failed to produce any chances of note.
A looping effort from Yuki Ogimi, scorer of the only goal the last time the teams met in Gothenburg in June, was easily dealt with by Lindahl after 13 minutes, while Miho Fukumoto made a slightly unorthodox save with her thigh at the other end as Thunebro tried her luck from distance.
Thunebro was then booked for a foul on Ogimi but captain Aya Miyama, with chants of ‘Nippon, Nippon’ ringing around the stadium, could only send the ensuing free kick straight into the Swedish wall.
Japan showed more fluidity after the interval and Nahomi Kawasumi, whose superb goal helped Japan beat the Swedes 3-1 in the semifinals of last year’s Women’s World Cup, tested Lindahl on 47 minutes, before the goalkeeper saved again from Homare Sawa after a flowing move.
Lindahl was kept busy as the Japanese continued to pepper her goal with shots, with Kawasumi, Ogimi, Shinobu Ono and substitute Mana Iwabuchi all going close.