WEMBLEY: Japan moved closer to a World Cup and Olympic double when they resisted a a spirited French fightback to reach the final of the Women’s Games final.
France made the brighter start but Japan took the lead after 32 minutes. Wendie Renard needlessly fouled Yuki Ogimi 35 yards from goal and captain Aya Miyama’s free-kick was missed completely by keeper Sarah Bouhaddi. Ogimi managed to squeeze a shot home, despite the best efforts of Sandrine Soubeyrand.
Norio Sasaki’s side began the second half on the front foot and doubled their advantage when the inability to deal with another Miyama free-kick cost the French. Again, the Japan skipper sent over a floating free-kick, Mizuho Sakaguchi lost her marker and had the time and space to head the ball home from 12 yards.
From then on, it was all France. Corine Franco, Marie-Laure Delie and Louisa Necib all had chances but were frustrated by wayward finishing or the goalkeeping heroics of Miho Fukumoto.
Undeterred, still they poured forward. In the 71st minute, Franco found Delie in the box, who turned sharply and produced a goalbound shot which the Japanese No1 did well to save low to her left.
Five minutes later, they pulled one back. Elodie Thomis embarked on a strong run down the right flank and played the ball inside to Delie, who found Eugenie Le Sommer. The substitute produced a superb right-footed finish.
Shortly afterwards France were handed a great chance to equalise when Sakaguchi checked Le Sommer’s run inside the box, leaving referee Quetzalli Alvarado no other option but to award a penalty kick. Up stepped the experienced Elise Bussaglia, who fired wide of the post.
With France committing so many forward in search of the equaliser, there was always the danger that Japan could hit them on the break and they almost scored a third from a quick counter-attack, Ogimi hitting the post with just Bouhaddi to beat.
There was still time for one last piece of drama when makeshift striker Renard almost equalised, but Fukumoto pulled off a fine save. Shortly after, the final whistle went, putting Japan through to a final with USA and sending France to Coventry for the bronze medal match.
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