Saturday, June 27, 2015

Women's World Cup Day 16: Hosts bow out honorably, Japan wins late

Australia 0-1 Japan
Japan has this thing where they will subtly dominate games and only score enough goals as they need to get by. It was how they cruised through their group without losing a single match and it was how they dispatched the Netherlands in the round of 16. This was really the first time they were not able to do that as Australia is a more than formidable opponent for them.

Both teams were playing well enough in the first half to make it seem like the chances weren't coming for either side. They were there, but there was nothing that had you sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for the net to bulge. Halftime was surely spent concocting schemes to break each well organized defense, but none of them actually worked until very late.

Japan's breakthrough came in the 87th minute after a series of chances were blocked or saved. On a corner, Australia stopped the original ball and sent it outside the box. Japan had a shot blocked, but it continued through to another shooter, who had her shot saved. Mana Iwabuchi pounced on the rebound of that one to tap the ball into an open net to send Japan to the semifinals for the second straight World Cup.

England 2-1 Canada

This game opened up as the most free flowing of the quarterfinals. Canada had a chance early on to take the lead, but Melissa Tancredi's shot sailed high. it was just the sort of finishing we have come to expect from Canada. England then stormed ahead. First, it was Jodi Taylor taking advantage of a Canadian turnover in the 11th minute. Then Lucy Bronze got her head to a free kick in the 14th. The header originally hit the crossbar before trickling over the goal line to give England a 2-0 lead before a quarter hour had been played.

BC Place was dead silent and Canada had an uphill climb if they wanted to become only the second host nation to advance past the quarterfinals in the Women's World Cup. They got one back in the 41st when captain Christine Sinclair took advantage of a shot spilled by Karen Bardsley. Sinclair was in the right place at the right time to bang home the rebound and inject some life back into the home crowd. They took that 2-1 line into halftime.

Early in the second half, England took a bit of a blow in the goalkeeping department. Karen Bardsley took a shot to the eye, causing it to bruise and swell up like mad. They played the last 39 minutes plus stoppages with their backup keeper Siobhan Chamberlain, who was making her World Cup debut. She didn't have to make her first save until the 88th minute, but that doesn't mean Canada wasn't pressuring. They had several chances throughout the entire second half. Canada could only ride the momentum of 54,000 fans for so long. Their attacks petered out in the end and England made way to the semifinals to face Japan while the heartbroken hosts were sent packing.

The semis are set. It will be the USA against Germany, number one in the world versus number two in the world, on Tuesday at 7pm from Montreal. England heads to Edmonton to face Japan on Wednesday, also at 7pm.

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