Japan had its bid for a first-ever Olympic podium finish in women’s soccer crushed with a 2-0 defeat to world champion Germany in the bronze medal match at the Beijing Olympics on Thursday.

Norio Sasaki’s side controlled long periods of the match in drizzly conditions at Workers’ Stadium but substitute Fatmire Bajramaj grabbed a second-half double to secure the Germans their third consecutive Olympic bronze medal.

Sasaki was naturally disappointed with the result but praised his players for their efforts in making the last four for the first time.

“All the players have done their best. They did everything they could and put out everything they have been working for,” Sasaki said.

“We lost but we will learn from the result. All the players did all they could, and because of that I am very satisfied. We will go back to Japan proud,” he said.

Seeking to avenge its 2-0 defeat at last year’s Women’s World Cup in China, Japan bossed the first half and it was only some inspired goalkeeping from Nadine Angerer that kept the East Asian champion at bay.

Angerer got down low to her right to palm away an Aya Miyama shot in the 21st minute and then tipped over a long range effort from Yukari Kinga.

Japan continued to press and Melanie Behringer was next to come to Germany’s rescue, clearing Homare Sawa’s volley off the line in the 23rd minute.

Sawa and Ayumi Hara both went close as Japan continued to force the pace after halftime, but it was the Germans who took the lead against the run of play on 69 minutes.

Miho Fukumoto could only parry Kerstin Garefrekes’s downward header and Bajramaj pounced to smash home from a tight angle.

Japan began to run out of steam as the match wore on and Bajramaj put the game out of reach when she beat Fukumoto at her near post with the second goal three minutes from time.

“We wanted to be strong from the beginning but Japan were active in the first half and tried to attack, and had five shots on goal whereas we had hardly any,” said Germany coach Silvia Neid.

“We are happy to get the bronze medal.”

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