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Japan was knocked out of the Women’s World Cup in the United Sates on Saturday after going down 3-1 to Canada in its final Group C match.

News photoChristine Latham scores for Canada despite the attentions of Japan defender Yasuyo Yamagishi and ‘keeper Nozomi Yamago during their first-round game in the Women’s World Cup.

Needing only a draw to advance to the quarterfinals, Japan took the lead through star striker Homare Sawa but Canada came storming back and goals from Christine Latham, Christine Sinclair and Kara Lang put the North Americans in the last eight for the first time.

The Canadians will play the Group D winner in Portland on Thursday — either China or Russia — for a place in the semifinals.

Japan, which walloped Argentina 6-0 in its opening match, finished third in the group behind Germany and Canada with a record of one win and two defeats.

The Canadians had the better of the early exchanges and Latham twice had opportunities to put her side in front as she hit a soft shot straight at Nozomi Yamago and then sent a header just wide of the Japanese goal in the 18th minute.

But it was Japan that drew first blood two minutes later as Sawa caught the Maple Leafs on the break. The Atlanta Beat forward collected a cross from Yayoi Kobayashi and rifled the ball past Taryn Swiatek.

Kobayashi missed a great chance to double Japan’s lead 10 minutes before the break when she shot just wide with Swiatek well out of position.

Canada punished the miss in the 37th minute as Latham finally got the goal she deserved. Sinclair put in a cross for the striker, who had to shrug off a tight challenge from Yasuyo Yamagishi before slotting the ball home.

The Canadians came out with all cylinders blazing after the break and Sinclair put them 2-1 up in the 49th minute as she headed in a well-taken corner from Brittany Timko.

The goal forced Japan back on the attack and the Asians thought they had equalized on 67 minutes as Mio Otani got her head on a sizzling cross from substitute Miyuki Yanagita only for the assistant referee to flag for offside.

Canada got a vital third against the run of play as Lang chipped the ball over Yamago to seal the win 18 minutes from time.

Despite the disappointment of an early exit, Japan coach Eiji Ueda said he was satisfied with the account the players gave of themselves against their physically stronger opponents.

“I thought overall we played well today and did things the way we had set out to. But obviously it’s very disappointing to concede three goals,” said Ueda.

“I don’t think our players are lacking in stamina but in terms of physical size we do have some disadvantages. It’s hard to deal with high balls into the box because of that and it’s something we have to work on,” he added.

Canada coach Even Pellerud said: “We didn’t live up to our own expectations in the match against Argentina but today we did better and I think we have turned a page.”

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