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Women's World Cup 2011: Japan Beats Germany, Make it to the Semis

Japan's Karina Maruyama celebrates after scoring the opening goal during extra time

In the second quarter final match of the Women’s World Cup 2011 Germany, Japan overcame the two times defending champions Germany by a solitary goal in the 108th minute, with a brilliance from substitute Karina Maruyama and Homare Sawa.

With this defeat, Germany ends their undefeated run in the World Cup since USA last routed them in the Quarter finals of the 1999 World Cup.

Japan’s veteran midfielder Homare Sawa had reserved her stamina and promptness till the 108th minute, when she perfectly served the deep running substitute Karina Maruyama who slip in an angled shot across goalie Nadine Angerer to stunt the 26,000 crowd present at the stadium.

“I saw her running, I saw the gap in the defense and I gave the assist,” Sawa said. Such sharpness of mind when others could hardly run won the 32-year-old the player of the match award.

“I take my hat off to her,” said Germany coach Silvia Neid. “It is her fifth World Cup and she still plays so well.”

Germany’s tactical plan backfired in the fourth minute when playmaker Kim Kulig injured herself while fighting for a header and had to be substituted. She was one player on whom the onus to take Germany ahead lay. “It was a shock for us,” said Neid, who counted on Kulig’s ball-winning skills.

Dominating the proceedings early on, Germany continuously mounted pressure on the Asian outfits and the Japanese had to absorb all the pressure. However things began to change when Japan got a better foothold in the middle and were outsmarting the host in physical aspect as well.

Soon, the mighty Germans were kicking the ball out of their penalty area in panic and with 15 minutes to go, the quarterfinal was anybody’s, with two tired teams chasing each and every ball.

“Our players were forced to be patient and wait for their opportunity,”
said Sasaki.

Germany threw everything forward in the final dozen minutes, but it didn’t matter. As throughout the tension-filled match, the ball never fell kindly to the hosts in the goalmouth. Instead, Japan was through to its first World Cup semifinal.

“I am so happy. We all fought together until the end,” said Maruyama. “It was not my success but that of the whole team.”

It also meant the end of the World Cup career of Birgit Prinz, Germany’s best-ever player and the tournament’s all-time scoring leader. After two disappointing games, she was benched for the last group game and again in the quarterfinal. She came off only after it was all over to shake hands with Sawa, both five-cup veterans.

After the game, the Japanese players united behind a Japanese banner saying, “To our friends around the world _ Thank you for your support,” recognizing the global aid in the wake of the deadly Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March.

“Out playing is to be an encouragement for the victims of the disaster,” said Sasaki.

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