FRANKFURT, Germany — Japan and the United States set up a clash for the biggest prize in women’s football 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 United States used their vast experience to get past France in Moenchengladbach.
Despite their nickname Nadeshiko — a pink flower symbolising 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.
“In Japan, it is early in the morning, but nevertheless there were a lot of people watching back home, which gave us strength and courage,” said coach Norio Sasaki.
“That is very good for Japan, we are still recovering,” he added, referring to the earthquake and tsunami which devastated the country four months ago.
“There were so many victims in the area which was devastated and even little things like a win can give people courage and hope. We wanted to give them some strength and courage back and we want to do the same thing in the final.”
Josefine Oqvist had opened for Sweden after ten 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.
“They had the advantage of their history, it’s their sixth semi-final in six editions of the World Cup,” said France captain Sandrine Soubeyrand.
“That made the difference. They were more efficient then us, we had a lot of chances. We need to move up another level.”
“It was our experience that won it,” said US striker Wambach, whose side are through to their first final in 12 years.
by A + E