Japan tops Brazil, reaches Olympic semifinal round

Ogimi goal helps set stage for semifinal tilt against French side

by Gus Fielding

Kyodo

Yuki Ogimi scored one goal and set up another as women’s world champion Japan beat Brazil 2-0 on Friday to set up a meeting with France in the semifinals of the London Games.

Ogimi opened the scoring with a well-taken finish midway through the first half in Cardiff and laid on the second for Shinobu Ono, keeping Japan on a collision course with reigning Olympic gold medalist and chief rival the United States, which also reached the last four.

“I think the players did a good job. They were very patient and controlled the game,” said Japan coach Norio Sasaki. “I think they could have moved the ball around a bit more, but the physical condition and the pass work of Brazil was good and things didn’t work as well as we expected. Still they did a great job.”

Japan will take on France on Monday at Wembley, while the U.S. will play Canada at Old Trafford.

France beat Sweden 2-1 in the day’s first quarterfinal, Laura Georges canceling out Nilla Fischer’s opener before Wendie Renard struck the winner six minutes before halftime at Hampden Park.

The U.S. beat New Zealand 2-0 behind goals from veteran striker Abby Wambach and Sydney Leroux and Canada beat Britain by the same scoreline.

Japan was outplayed by France and lost 2-0 in Paris on July 19 in a warmup for the Olympics. Renard also scored in that game.

“The most important thing is that we are in good condition,” said Sasaki of the team’s next game.

“We are playing against France again, but we learned a good lesson from the last time we played them in July and we have been keeping an eye on them at this tournament. I am going to ask the players to be more aggressive then they get the ball so that we can move the ball around better. If we had done that today we might have been better.”

At Millennium Stadium, Japan nearly made a dream start as Ono teed herself up and tested Brazil goalkeeper Andreia with a volley with just 40 seconds on the clock.

Homare Sawa brought down fellow superstar Marta to concede a free kick, but Miho Fukumoto saved after Francielle had shot through a gap in the Japanese wall.

Renata Costa squandered a great chance to put Brazil ahead when she scuffed over the bar from point blank range, and Fukumoto was at her best as she pulled off a flying save to deny Formiga from 20 meters.

Japan finally started to find its rhythm, and Aya Miyama curled just around the post, before Ogimi broke the deadlock on 27 minutes, sprinting onto Sawa’s pass and keeping her head to slot past Andreia.

“Our defense had been put under pressure and I’m glad I was able to take that one chance,” said Ogimi. “It was complacent defending from my opponent and I was able to find a way through (for the goal). We showed the will to win and played well.”

Japan looked good for their lead as the game progressed, although they were given a scare when five-time Women’s World Player of the Year Marta flashed a free kick wide on 58 minutes.

But Ono settled nerves and put Japan all but out of reach 17 minutes from time, collecting Ogimi’s pass and beating her marker Erika to rattle in off the underside of the crossbar.

“That goal had the whole team’s spirit in it. It wasn’t only my goal,” said Ono. “We lost to France last time and now we want to get revenge and get to the final.”