COVENTRY: Japan and Sweden turned up the first goalless draw of the women’s Olympic football as they ended up all-square in Group F in Coventry.
The world champions were unchanged going into the game, while the Swedes made two changes. Annica Svensson came in for Lina Nilsson and Johanna Almgren surprisingly had to replace skipper Nilla Fischer who was suffering from a tight hamstring.
The Scandinavians were the slightly dominant side in the opening minutes as they defended very well as a compact unit in the centre of the pitch and did not allow Japan to penetrate their final third. Offensively, Sweden struggled to bring Lotta Schelin into play and were increasingly reliant on long-range efforts.
Sara Thunebro, Sofia Jakobsson and Caroline Seger all had half-chances, while Japan only tested Hedvig Lindahl once when Aya Sameshima’s effort was comfortably parried.
The semi-final clash between these two teams at Germany 2011 yielded four goals as Japan ran out 3-1 winners, but this was altogether a tighter affair. However, the game opened up more in the second half as Norio Sasaki tried a different approach after the interval.
Instead of trying to attack through the centre of the pitch, they brought the flanks into play more and it almost paid off instantly. In the 46th minute, Nahomi Kawasumi stepped up the pace on the left wing and took a nice shot from just inside the box, but Lindahl made a great save.
Kawasumi was at the centre of the action again, passing to Shinobu Ohno who played the ball to Homare Sawa. Lindahl was once again equal to her attempt and the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year was substituted shortly afterwards.
Lindahl was on hand to deny Yuki Ogimi and Ohno before the introduction of Sweden forward Kosovare Asllani encouraged their brightest spell. Her presence in attack distracted the Japan defence sufficiently to allow Schelin to shoot just outside the box before Asllani went close herself with a header.
On the third and final matchday of Group F, Sweden meet Canada in Newcastle whereas Japan face South Africa in Cardiff. Both matches will take place on Tuesday.
Canada 3 South Africa 0
Canada kept alive their hopes of qualifying from Group F as two goals from their record goalscorer Christine Sinclair helped them to a comfortable 3-0 win over bottom-placed South Africa in Coventry.
Their first victory means they are lying in third spot ahead of the final games, a point adrift of Japan and Sweden, whom they meet on Tuesday at St James’ Park.
Canada, beaten 2-1 by Japan in their opening match, went ahead after only seven minutes. Melissa Tancredi, who had netted against Japan, was again their marksman when converting a low centre from Diana Matheson. Tancredi was a constant threat and headed just wide at the near post from a Lauren Sesselmann cross, while Kaylyn Kyle had a powerful effort saved by Thokozile Mndaweni.
South Africa came more into the game before half-time, with Portia Modise’s shot on the turn saved by Karina LeBlanc. Then hesitation by Robyn Gayle let in Mpumi Nyandeni only for the Canadian defender to recover and deflect the shot onto the crossbar.
But Sinclair scored her 138th Canada goal after 58 minutes. Her header from Sesselman’s centre hit the underside of the bar but had clearly crossed the line. Canada threatened to add to their lead and a 25-yard drive from Matheson struck the crossbar.
With four minutes left, Sinclair broke clear and slid the ball past Mndaweni for her second goal andCanada‘s third.
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