EDMONTON, ALBERTA – Defending champion Japan will meet the United States in the final of the Women’s World Cup for the second tournament in a row after a dramatic 2-1 defeat of England in the semifinals on Wednesday.
Japan captain Aya Miyama opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the 33rd minute before England replied with a penalty of its own through Fara Williams five minutes before halftime.
But Japan snatched victory in the dying seconds when England defender Laura Bassett turned into her own net in the second minute of second-half injury time.
“The (winning) goal was as a result of everyone pushing us on with their support and came from our determination to win. England played really well,” said Japan coach Norio Sasaki.
“I want my players to go into the final not being afraid of making mistakes.”
The Americans booked their spot in Sunday’s final after a 2-0 win over Germany in the other semifinal on Tuesday.
Japan beat the U.S. 3-1 on penalties in the 2011 final in Germany after a pulsating 2-2 draw after extra time to be crowned world champion for the first time.
It was Japan’s first win over England, having lost two and drawn two of their previous four meetings, including a 2-0 defeat in the group phase of the last World Cup.
Japan, fielding an unchanged side from its quarterfinal win over Australia, was given an early scare when fleet-footed England striker Jodie Taylor flashed a shot inches wide of the post with less than a minute gone.
Toni Duggan then tried her luck from the edge of the box with a shot that sailed over the crossbar midway through the first half before she miscued horribly after a cross from Jill Scott had found her with time and space in the box.
But Japan took the lead against the run of the play when it was awarded a penalty just after the half-hour mark.
Claire Rafferty was booked for a foul on Saori Ariyoshi that appeared to be just outside the area. But referee Anna-Marie Keighley had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Miyama sauntered up to bury her shot into the left-hand corner.
Japan’s joy proved to be short-lived though as England hit back after Yuki Ogimi was adjudged to have taken down England captain Stephanie Houghton from behind.
Williams stepped up to take the kick and successfully converted her second penalty of the competition, drilling into the left-hand corner beyond the outstretched arms of Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori.
England enjoyed plenty of pressure in the early stages of the second half and had several chances to go in front.
Duggan took a great first touch before smashing a shot against the bar in the 62nd minute, Kaihori dove to her left to push away a shot from substitute Ellen White and Scott then headed a corner just wide of the post.
Sasaki brought on Mana Iwabuchi, the match-winner against Australia, for Shinobu Ono and the move nearly paid swift dividends when the petite Bayern Munich striker went close with a deflected effort past the post.
With the game looking all set to go to extra time, Japan was gifted the win right at the death as Bassett tried to block a pass from the right by Nahomi Kawasumi but the ball looped and went in off the underside of the bar.