CARDIFF: Japan’s trick of not beating South Africa so as to finish group runners-up to stay in Cardiff paid off when they beat Beijing silver medallists Brazil – Marta, Cristiane and all – by 2-0 to reach the Olympic women’s semi-finals.
The World Cup holders will be favourites to win their quarter-final against France at Wembley on Monday.
Norio Sasaki’s side weathered a bright start from their opponents in the Millennium Stadium, took a first-half lead through Yuki Ogimi and sealed their place in the final four though Shiobu Ohno in the second half.
Brazil dominated the opening 20 minutes yet Japan could have taken the lead within seconds of kick-off. Ohno latched onto a weak clearance and Brazil keeper Andreia did well to parry her half-volley.
The South Americans responded and dictated the tempo thereafter, with Renata Costa, a goalscorer in their opening match against Cameroon, firing over from close range after 16 minutes.
Four minutes later, Formiga tested the reflexes of Miho Fukumoto with a thunderous effort from distance which the Japan keeper over the crossbar.
The Asian side then came alive, however, and could have broken the deadlock midway through the period. Homare Sawa released Ogimi, whose cross found Ohno. The forward’s first attempt was blocked and her second sailed too high.
Minutes later, however, another incisive through ball from Sawa allowed Ogimi to run clear of the Brazilian defence and the Turbine Potsdam forward kept her composure to slide her shot past Andreia.
Needing an equaliser, Brazil camped in Japan’s half after the break. Marta, former five-times Women’s World Player of the Year, skimmed a free-kick just wide on the hour before Cristiane was found free in the penalty area from a Rosana cross but could not keep her header down.
Japan took advantage in the 73rd minute. Retrieving the ball on the left wing, Ogimi found strike partner Ohno free to step in on goal and curl a shot beyond Andreia.
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