THESSALONIKI, Greece – Japan bowed out of the women’s soccer tournament at the Athens Games after a 2-1 defeat by the United States in the quarterfinals Friday.
Kristine Lilly fired the Americans in front shortly before halftime but Japan battled back and leveled from an Emi Yamamoto free-kick in the 48th minute.
But the Americans snatched victory just before the hour mark with a goal from striker Abby Wambach, reaching the last four and maintaining their record of never having lost to Japan since the teams first met in 1968.
In the semifinals, the 1996 Atlanta Games champion and 2000 Sydney Olympic silver medalists will face reigning world champion Germany.
Germany came from behind to beat Nigeria 2-1 thanks to a late goal from Conny Pohlers in a match being played at the same time in Patras.
At Kaftanzoglio Stadium, the U.S. strolled in the sunshine for the opening 20 minutes, but its fluid approach work all too often broke down in the final third of the pitch.
Wambach headed a Mia Hamm corner just wide after 19 minutes while at the other end Mio Otani should have done better with a free header that sailed aimlessly off target.
The Americans deservedly went in front in the 59th minute when Japan goalkeeper Nozomi Yamago failed to gather a botched clearance from Homare Sawa and Lilly slammed the ball home from close range.
But Japan hit back as Yamamoto’s floated free-kick from the right eluded everyone and nestled in the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
The goal opened the game up and injected a new lease on life into Japan, and Eriko Arakawa burst through and fired just wide soon after, but Wambach killed off Eiji Ueda’s side with the winner in the 59th minute.
Shannon Boxx beat the offside trap to pick up a free-kick from Hamm and rolled the ball across the face of the goal to Wambach to stroke into an empty net.