FARO, Portugal – Nadeshiko Japan fell to Germany 3-0 in the final of the Algarve Cup on Wednesday, finishing runnerup to the Germans for the second time in three years.
The Germans, ranked one spot ahead of world No. 3 Japan, showed their class in the second half, when Nadine Kessler, Anja Mittag and Dzenifer Marozsan each scored to turn a scoreless game into an onslaught that coach Norio Sasaki’s World Cup champions were helpless to stop.
“Considering how Germany had dominated the first halves of games against us, it was great to be able to keep them scoreless in the first half,” Nadeshiko captain Aya Miyama said. “But we made some substitutions at the half and before we could get our balance we were down.”
Germany also made a substitution at the half, bringing in midfielder Kessler, who got the ball at the edge of the penalty area and made no mistake with her first opportunity.
Less than a minute after the restart, a long ball bounced off the back of Japan defender Rumi Utsugi, was controlled by Germany, who set up Kessler with two sharp passes. The midfielder blasted home from the edge of the box toward the far post that Japan keeper Erina Yamane had no chance on.
“The Germans are in the middle of their season. We’re not and it showed,” Sasaki said. “This is a lesson we can learn from. We made a lot of mistakes and in the second half, we were hesitant. But credit Germany. They did a fine job of exploiting their opportunities.”
Four minutes after Kessler’s strike, Germany was at it again as Japan’s defense looked unsettled and was giving away far too much space. Midfielder Fatmire Bajramaj had plenty of room up the right side from where she picked out Mittag at the near post with a precise cross. With Yamane guarding the post and another defender in front of her, Mittag cleverly backheeled the ball toward the far post and it rolled in easily for a 2-0 German lead.
Japan’s passing, normally one of its strengths, was lackadaisical, and forward Mana Iwabuchi’s poor back pass under pressure gave the ball away at midfield in the 61st minute. Marozsan followed with a mazy run through Japan’s seemingly bewildered defenders before launching a pin-point strike from 25 meters out that put the game to bed.
Japan’s next challenge will be qualifying for the 2015 Women’s World Cup at the Women’s Asia Cup in Vietnam in May.
“We have some work to do, and we will do it,” Miyama said. “We are going to need to score. You can’t win any matches if you don’t score.”