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Japan keeps title defense alive

Updated: 2015-06-25 07:41
By Associated Press In Vancouver, Canada (China Daily)

Mizuho Sakaguchi scored what turned out to be the deciding goal in the 78th minute on a pretty left-footed shot from the top of the 18-yard box as defending Women's World Cup champion Japan held off a late attack to beat the Netherlands 2-1 on Tuesday night and reach the quarterfinal.

Kirsten van de Ven scored for the Dutch in stoppage time when the ball went off goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori's right arm. Three additional minutes had been added to the clock.

Sakaguchi scored shortly after Japan nearly had an own goal. Sherida Spitse took a corner in the 76th and the ball deflected off Aya Sameshima toward her own net when Kaihori punched it away with her right fist.

"We are in the knockout stage so if we lost there would be nothing left, so I'm happy that we won," Sakaguchi said.

"I went for a strike and I thought it was a long shot and that's not my strength but I thought I should try it."

Saori Ariyoshi found herself in perfect position when the Netherlands flubbed a clearing attempt and whe scored from the top of the box in the 10th minute for Japan's initial goal.

Japan overpowered the young Dutch squad for much of the evening at BC Place stadium by controlling possession in the midfield to create chances, and the defense pushed far up the field.

The Nadeshiko, who along with Brazil were the only teams to win all three group-stage games, advance to the quarterfinal against Australia on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.

They stuck with their familiar World Cup trend, too. Five of Japan's six goals have come in the 29th minute or earlier, and all six have been scored by a different player.

Japan, with its hustle and fancy footwork on display for a crowd of 28,717, ran its game plan with precision to control all of the field against an overmatched Netherlands team making its World Cup debut.

On the early scoring play, Aya Miyama dribbled down the left sideline and crossed to Yuki Ogimi, whose header hit the crossbar and Dutch defender Merel van Dongen couldn't clear the slow rebound.

Ariyoshi then connected from about 15 yards out and put the ball in the lower corner past diving goalkeeper Loes Geurts.

Japan had another solid chance in the 22nd minute on a give-and-go from Sameshima to Shinobu Ohno that Sameshima struck over the bar.

Ohno also missed an open header moments before the first half ended.

Even when the Netherlands threatened early, it seemed a step slow.

"We had a great start until it came to be 1-0 and then we became a bit sloppy, with sloppy passing," Dutch coach Roger Reijners said.

"Our team did all we could to get something going and not leave with nothing at all. After 2-0 we were a little lucky and managed to make it 2-1."

The Netherlands missed a chance to qualify for next summer's Rio de Janeiro Olympics as one of Europe's top three teams, but could still earn a berth into the 12-team Olympic field through a European playoff.

Japan keeps title defense alive

Netherlands' Anouk Dekker (back right) gets her head on the ball but fails to score as Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori reaches for the ball and Rumi Utsugi defends during the second half of a round of 16 match at the FIFA Women's World Cup on Tuesday in Vancouver. Defending champion Japan won 21. Arryl Dyck / The Canadian Press / AP

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