PARCHAL, PORTUGAL – Nadeshiko Japan failed to avenge their loss to the United States in the 2012 London Olympic gold medal match, but did manage to draw the world’s top women’s team 1-1 in their Algarve Cup opener on Wednesday.
In a match that saw World Cup champion and world No. 3 Japan outplayed for the majority of the time, Nadeshiko captain Aya Miyama equalized in the 82nd minute from a 30-meter free kick at Belevista Municipal Stadium.
Although the Americans, under former Sanfrecce Hiroshima coach Tom Sermanni, created the bulk of the chances, it was not until the 58th minute that forward Sydney Leroux opened the scoring due to a lapse by Japan ‘keeper Erina Yamane.
“We are not really game fit,” Japan coach Norio Sasaki said. “It was a great effort to hold them to a draw.”
The Olympic gold medal-winning Americans applied consistent pressure through the first half with some precision through balls to Leroux in front of the Japan goal and to midfielder Heather O’Reilly down the left side.
While the Americans launched attack after attack, Nadeshiko Japan’s best chances were a few blistering long-range shots in the first half that forced good saves from ‘keeper Hope Solo.
Moments before Leroux’s goal, Japan striker Shinobu Ono was played through in front of the U.S. goal only to be harshly ruled offsides.
The Americans, who had not lost since being beaten by Nadeshiko Japan 1-0 in this tournament on March 5, 2012, finally caught a break when Yamane had time to clear a ball, but hesitated. When she did kick it, she put it directly into the path of the onrushing Leroux.
Considering Nadeshiko’s best chances had come from long range, it was fitting for Miyama to score on a superb kick that rocketed over the wall from a distance and still gave Solo little chance for a save.
Japan’s next game will be against Denmark on Friday.