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Japan 3, Sweden 1

Japan continues impressive run

By Raf Casert
Associated Press / July 14, 2011

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FRANKFURT, Germany - Homare Sawa made up for a huge error by scoring the go-ahead goal and Japan advanced to the World Cup final with a 3-1 victory over Sweden yesterday.

Surprise starter Nahomi Kawasumi had two goals for Japan, which will face the US in Sunday’s championship. It’s the first World Cup final for the rising soccer power.

Kawasumi played 29 minutes in the tournament before coach Norio Sasaki started her in Japan’s biggest game ever.

“She is very tough and fit,’’ he said. “I didn’t ask her to score two goals but she did an excellent job.’’

Josefine Oqvist scored for Sweden, which allowed three unanswered goals.

In a battle of Japan’s fine skills against the thrust and hustle of Sweden, the match turned in the second half when Kawasumi caught Hedvig Lindahl off her line and lobbed it over her from about 110 feet away for the final score, one of the best in a tournament full of excellent strikes.

Sawa’s goal also gave her four for the tournament to tie her with Brazil’s Marta. Sawa, though, has one game left to become the top scorer of her fifth World Cup.

The Japanese players always had more on their minds than their next game in the marquee event for women’s soccer. In the wake of the March 11 tsunami and earthquake, they wanted to provide a feel-good story for fans back home.

And they came through.

Following their latest win, they again unfurled a huge banner that said “To our Friends Around the World - Thank You for Your Support,’’ referring to the global outpouring of aid after the tsunami, that left nearly 23,000 dead or missing.

“What we have been doing so far is very good for Japan,’’ Sasaki said. “We are still recovering from the disaster. Even little things, like a win, can give people courage and hope.’’

“Tonight, the Japanese were a bit more eager to win,’’ Sweden coach Thomas Dennerby said.

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