by Ciara McCormack
In another highly anticipated match-up, this time at Millenium Stadium in Cardiff, Brazil-Japan did not disappoint pitting the clinical Japanese against the flamboyant Brazilians.
The Brazilians looked the more dangerous side in the opening part of the first half as Jorge Barellos’ side looked like they were not dwelling on their 1-0 loss to Great Britain in their final match of the opening round. With seven corners by Brazil in the first 20 minutes alone, Japan’s goalkeeper Miho Fukomoto was forced to be sharp in net weathering the Brazilian storm. Dangerous chances that seemed to suggest that the match would fall in the South American’s favor were rampant with Renata Costa shooting over the crossbar at the 16 minute mark and the ageless Formiga firing a superb shot from distance that Fukomoto had to knock over the crossbar four minutes later.
From there the Japanese seemed to come alive, with the technical and tactical genius that Shinobu Ohno and Yuki Ogimi have shown all tournament, being brought to light orchestrated by the delightful passes of Homare Sawa. At the midpoint of the first half, Sawa released Ogimi, who sent a dangerous cross into Ohno. Ohno fired two shots in the sequence, one of which was blocked, while the second sailed high.
Sawa and Ogimi combined again minutes later, when Sawa sent a fantastic ball through to Ogimi, who escaped the Brazilian defense, and she clinically finished past the Brazilian keeper Andreia, sending the Japanese into a 1-0 lead, a lead in which they held to halftime.
In the second half, the Brazilians pushed for an equalizer, yet their penchant for relying on individualistic flair and brilliance was a contrast to the offensive teamwork and artistry that the reigning world champions put on display. This was none more evident when in the 73rd minute Marta was stripped dribbling through traffic in the middle third of the field, which led to the second Japanese goal. The Japanese showed their world-class ability to transition as one pass after Marta was stripped sent Ogimi ahead, and she sent a ball to Ohno on the right, who cut past a Brazilian defender and finished precisely into the top corner, sending the Japanese into a 2-0 lead that they did not relinquish.
With their performance, the Japanese have earned a berth in the semi-finals at Wembley Stadium, against France, who beat Sweden 2-1 in a game played earlier today.
by Ciara McCormack