Soccer

Nadeshiko Japan books spot in 2019 Women's World Cup

KYODO

Nadeshiko Japan booked its ticket to the 2019 Women’s World Cup with a 1-1 draw against Australia in the Asian Cup on Friday.

The result in its final Group B match at Amman International Stadium ensured Japan advanced to the semifinals of the tournament, which serves as the official Asian qualifier for next year’s Women’s World Cup in France.

Australia, ranked No. 6 in the world, had early opportunities over world No. 11 Japan with Lisa De Vanna and Chloe Logarzo close to finding the back of the net before the halftime.

However, midfielder Mizuho Sakaguchi put Nadeshiko ahead in the 63rd minute, driving in a Yui Hasegawa pass from inside the penalty box.

Australia equalized with four minutes remaining after Japan goalie Ayaka Yamashita fumbled a shot by Kyah Simon and forward Samantha Kerr fired home the loose ball to secure a spot for the Matildas and deny South Korea a place in the semifinals.

“I’m glad I contributed to the team because I made mistakes in my passing at crucial moments earlier in the match,” Sakaguchi said. “I just want to do my best so we can win this tournament.”

Japan coach Asako Takakura said the Nadeshiko had successfully navigated through one of the toughest parts of its World Cup campaign.

“It’s a little disappointing we drew. But we qualified for the tournament, so now, we will do our best to win,” Takakura said. “We just need to focus on what is in front of us.”

Japan, the reigning Asian Cup champion, needed to win the match or score in a draw in order to secure a spot in the semifinals. In the case of a scoreless draw, it needed South Korea to win by less than four goals against Vietnam in the other Group B match.

The top five teams at the Women’s Asian Cup in Jordan — the four semifinalists plus the winner of a fifth-place playoff — earn qualification for the World Cup.

Japan will face Group A winner China in Tuesday’s semifinals at King Abdullah II Stadium, after Australia plays Group A runner-up Thailand.

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