Japan and the US set up a clash for the biggest prize in women’s soccer after seeing off European hopefuls Sweden and France by identical 3-1 scorelines in Wednesday’s semi-finals at the World Cup.
Asian giants Japan emphatically beat Sweden in Frankfurt, while earlier the US used their vast experience to get past France in Moenchengladbach.
Despite their nickname Nadeshiko — a pink flower symbolizing grace and beauty — the Japanese are proving no pushovers, having beaten two-time defending champions Germany in the quarter-finals, and are now through to their first ever final.
Josefine Oqvist had opened for Sweden after 10 minutes, but Japan striker Nahomi Kawasumi netted goals either side of half-time, while captain Homare Sawa capped another impressive display with her fourth goal in five games.
Earlier, Lauren Cheney (9), Abby Wambach (79) and Alex Morgan (82) kept the Americans’ bid for an unprecedented third title after 1991 and 1999 on track. Sonia Bompastor got a goal back for France after 55 minutes.
Despite the French having most shots at goal, it was the Americans who went into the locker room with the half-time advantage after Cheney picked up a Heather O’Reilly cross to tap effortlessly into goal after nine minutes.
However, Bompastor grabbed the equalizer after 55 minutes as her shot flew past a waiting Gaetane Thiney in the box to curl in off the far post and into the net.
The decision to bring on substitute midfielder Megan Rapinoe proved decisive for the Americans.
And for the second straight game, Wambach scored a key header as she rose high to blast in a Cheney corner after 79 minutes with substitute Morgan scoring the third three minutes later.
In Frankfurt, there was no hint of the Japanese domination to come when Oqvist drilled home her shot after 10 minutes past Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori.
Her strike took a deflection off the boot of Japan defender Saki Kumagai, which lifted the ball out of Kaihori’s reach, but the Asians were level soon after, having noticeably raised their game in front of the 45,434 crowd.
Midfielder Aya Miyama drilled in a cross and Kawasumi wove her way through several Swedish defenders to scramble the ball home on 19 minutes.
With Sweden failing to put any consistent pressure on the Japan goal, the Nadeshiko put the game beyond their reach with two goals in four minutes.
Sawa headed home on the hour mark, her fourth in five games, with Kawasumi scoring her second when she lobbed into an empty goal from about 40m on 64 minutes to ensure a final showdown with the world’s top team on Sunday.
World No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying yesterday eased past her Thai opponent to advance to the second round of the Toyota Thailand Open. The Taiwanese star toppled world No. 46 Supanida Katethong 21-16, 21-11 in 29 minutes at the Impact Arena in Bangkok. “I think I played OK today. I am feeling a little better than last week,” Tai said. Tomorrow, Tai faces Indonesia’s Gregoria Mariska Tunjung. The two have faced each other six times, with Tai beating the world No. 21 in all six matches. Tai on Sunday reached the final of the Yonex Thailand Open before losing decisively against Carolina Marin of Spain.
LOOKING TO REPEAT: World No. 7 Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin advanced to the round-of-16 at the Toyota Thailand Open, after winning the Yonex Thailand Open on Sunday Taiwan’s world No. 7 duo yesterday eased past the US’ world No. 37 pairing at the Toyota Thailand Open to reach the round-of-16 in Bangkok. Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin beat Phillip Chew and Ryan Chew 21-14, 21-11 in just 24 minutes. Lee and Wang, who won the men’s doubles title at the Yonex Thailand Open on Sunday, next face the world No. 34 pairing, Canada’s Jason Anthony Ho-Shue and Nyl Yakura. In men’s singles, Taiwan’s world No. 2 Chou Tien-chen again beat Thailand’s world No. 45 Suppanyu Avihingsanon, after edging past the Thai player in the opening round of the Yonex
Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant described new teammate James Harden as “incredible” after the guard recorded a triple-double on his debut for the team in their 122-115 NBA victory over the Orlando Magic on Saturday night. Harden on Thursday joined the Nets from the Houston Rockets to reunite with Durant — his former teammate at Oklahoma City Thunder — and the duo looked dominant in their first game together with the Brooklyn team. Durant scored a season-high 42 points while Harden, the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2018, became the seventh player in NBA history to register a triple-double in his debut
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