Japan tops Sweden, will face USWNT in Women’s World Cup final

Japan (Reuters Pictures)

Japan's dream run in the Women's World Cup continues.

After falling behind in the 10th minute, Japan scored three unanswered goals and defeated Sweden, 3-1, in Wednesday's semifinal to advance to the final against the United States.

Josefine Oqvist put Sweden, which topped the United States in the group stage, ahead early with a clinical finish, but the lead was a short-lived one.

Nahomi Kawasumi equalized nine minutes later, Homare Sawa put Japan ahead in the 59th minute and Kawasumi struck again with an insurance goal in the 64th to help Japan knock off its second consecutive European power. Japan beat two-time defending champion and host Germany in extra time in the quarterfinals.

Japan and the United States have played three times this year, with the Americans winning all three matchups. They played two World Cup tune-ups in May, with the United States winning, 2-0, both times.

What did you think of Japan's performance? How do you think Japan matches up with the USWNT? Who do you see winning the final?

Share your thoughts below.

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50 Responses to Japan tops Sweden, will face USWNT in Women’s World Cup final

  1. Quakes in your panties says:

    Third goal was beautiful and the Nadeshiko play an attractive brand of geometric football with sublime passing and skill.

  2. Brian S. says:

    I think WOW is all I can say. I never imagined Japan would be so dangerous. They beat Germany in Germany and now a Sweden team that looked like the best team in the tournament. We are gonna have our hands full on Sunday. Props to Japan

  3. marco says:

    Watching Japan take apart Sweden with possession and skill, reminds me of comments made by Sunil, and Rongen after an U-20 loss. They said that the USA does not have the technical skills to compete with the football powers, that they must find another way to compete. Of course Korea and Switzerland were in that same tournament and competing with skill. Sunil and Rongen were transferring their short comings onto others, the players. Bob Bradley employs the same negativism. Great athletes can develop those skills, in any nation. It’s up to management to put it together. Rongen is gone, two more to go. Great win for Japan and soccer.

  4. A wise man once says:

    Wow… Japan seem to beat all the favorites in this tournament.

    I’d have to give the edge to USA to win the finals, but seeing Japan’s defeating of Germany AND Sweden, it could go either way.

  5. Jeff says:

    Great play by Japan. All the talk of Sweden overpowering them with their size didn’t really occur. Of course the passing was beautiful but I was also impressed how well they defended and regained shape.
    Look forward to the final.

  6. Brett says:

    Dear Brazil,

    Watch Japan for tips on how to properly waste time at the end of a match.

    Thank You,
    The World

  7. pancholama says:

    The ladies from the land of the rising sun just delivered up an old fashioned a** whuppin’.

    The Swedes got schooled, and having scored early in the game got over confident. The Japanese played beautiful possession soccer football and finished their chances. Out-shot the Swedes 14-4 and absolutely schooled them at mid-field play, short passing, dribbling and passing through balls, soft touch and dribbling out of danger to maintain possession. The held 65% plus of possession, the last 2 of the 3 minutes or so of compensation injury time, the way the Japanese ladies held up the ball in the corner and just stoned the Swedes, daring them to take the ball away, winning throw in, after throw in, after throw in and corner kick – simply outstanding, confident and majestic.

    Nevertheless I have the US in the final, 3-1 with goals from Wambach, Rapinoe, Boxx and/or Morgan.

  8. Brett says:

    Japan played well but they still don’t have a killer in the box like we do. All 3 goals never happen if Sweden has a decent keeper.

  9. marco says:

    Agree, so happy Japan is in and Brazil is out.

  10. Wansteiger says:


  11. Chuck Norris says:

    USA won the World Cup

  12. Brett says:

    They didn’t actually.

    Yes. 3 goals went in but keeper error was a factor in all of them.

    The first one was misplayed and went through her legs. The second she disappeared on and left the net open. And the third she was caught way out of position and made a really dumb mistake.

    Japan is definitely the feel-good story of the tournament though. But their good feelings end on Sunday!

  13. R says:

    Hire Norio Sasaki as the new USMNT coach.

  14. Goalscorer24 says:

    Looks like Japan has improved through out the tournament. The US has to make sure they don’t take them lightly!

  15. Igner Ant says:

    Boy, I have to say, I think the U.S. has every reason in the world to be nervous about Japan. It’s not going to be easy, at the very best. It just smacks of a setup– we have beaten them so many times, even this year, but they have such an emotional story, and looked so frigging good against the Swedes…
    Can’t wait for Sunday! Go USA!

  16. Jeff says:

    True, but the 2 of those goals happened because of quality play not pure goalkeeper blunder. No they don’t have a killer in the box but the have more precision spread amongst the team. Could be a tough match. I think US can shut down their passing game and adapt formation resulting in US victory.

  17. Berlin says:

    Swedish keeper put on a performance that only England could be proud of.

  18. wilyboy says:

    Who are those girls?

  19. wilyboy says:

    Also, what would the other teams do for Hope Solo as their Keeper? 1st and 2nd goals look like keeper problems.

  20. pd says:

    I think that This final is going to be epic. Two teams peaking at exactly the right time. Japan is playing really flowing technical football and the US are rising and oozing confidence.

    Japan has to be called the underdog but it will be an even match. What I was so taken with was how loose the Japanese seem right now. They are playing like every second is a gift and you can’t help but admire that. That said I’m looking for the USA to make her story this weekend.

    Rest up ladies, the world is holding it’s breath!

  21. pd says:

    While I disagree, this suggestion is refreshing compare to the usual
    Knuckle headed twaddle coming from the fire Bob crowd. Still and all the man deserves mad props as does the Japanese football federation. Quality stuff against two perennial giants in the sport.

  22. questioner says:

    Japan’s left back is extremely weak. We should overload that side on attack. We need to serve a lot of high crosses to test their keeper. They can’t mark Wambach in the air, but we will need to get the ball from them first in order to create these opportunities.

    We need to win every head ball which shouldn’t be a problem, but then also the second ball.

    Nobody seems to be talking about how Sweden got screwed by the AR in this game. Japan’s second and third goal should both have been flagged for offside.
    The attacker for Japan was in an offside position on the second goal when Sawa headed the ball and obstructed the Swedish defender (i.e. interfered with the play). The third goal was without a question offside on the initial play when the attacker collided with the goalkeeper!

    Why does nobody talk about this in the women’s game? The men’s analysts would be ALL over this.

    As a US fan, I would much rather play Japan than Sweden. However, just sayin’ that the sleeping AR’s need to be called out.

  23. pd says:

    Bornstein plays for the Japanese nationals now?

  24. questioner says:

    *sorry I meant interfering with the opponent.

    And Sweden was missing their best player, Caroline Seger, one of the best midfielders in the world. Does anyone know why she didn’t play?

  25. RB says:

    Calf injury (apparently an old one).

  26. biff says:

    After Bob steps down, how about Pia Sundhage? There is a weird story in the German press claiming that Sundhage two years ago was offered the Swedish men’s team job but turned it down. The story quotes Sundhage as saying in the future she would like to lead a men’s team. Here is link to the story for all who can read German:

    link to welt.de

  27. Japan looked really good out there. Nice crisp passing, possession and the closed the game out really well. I know the US beat them a few times before the World Cup, but this is a different team. They look motivated and will have all the confidence after knocking off Germany and Sweden. This is going to be a good game. Go USA! I hope Morgan gets another, and it would be nice if Rodriguez could find the back of the net.

  28. JoeW says:

    Interesting final…

    1. Japan has invested heavily in technical development. Their primary models have been Brasil (imported a lot of Brasilian players and coaches into the J league) and the Dutch (the Cooerver system is really big there).

    2. We’ll have a huge physical edge. Our women tend to be bigger than anyone else anyway but the Japanese players are particularly small. Look at the postgame clips and the Swedes tower over most of the Japanese.

    3. I’m not so confident that our ladies easily win this one. Our legs our tired. Wambach isn’t practicing b/c of that achilles (which contributes to her being out of form except in the air).

    4. Ironically, the team that the USWNT remind me of the most are the old German sides…the ones that were disciplined and physical and relentless, were smart, stuck to the system, didn’t deviant. A Dutch friend told me a joke. It goes “the definition of football is: 2 sides of 11 players gather, play for 90 minutes and then the Germans win.” That’s the US right now. Other sides have better technique or own possession but our ladies don’t let any of that or bad breaks or falling behind ruin their composure and focus. So kudos to them.

    5. I hope the people talking about Sundhage or others as coach for the MNT are joking. The “99 WC champions used to play the boys U17 team and LOSE at Bradenton. I think it’s bad form to criticize the women b/c I admire all they’ve done. But the women and men’s games are qualitatively different.

  29. Nico says:

    This sets up a great final!

  30. Thorpinski says:

    The ladies did look tired today, but that was with only 2 days rest. Playing on Sunday gives them an extra day, plus we have a strong bench. Today’s game was tough and France controlled much of the play because of tired legs, I think if the girls were fresh they would have won easier and more convincingly.

    I think they will have a tough match Sunday but they should win 2-0 or 3-1 imho

  31. Martha says:

    I’m worried France was the better team for 70 minutes and looked alot more technical than the US. Sweeden also outplayed the US when they were fresh. They looked more technical also. On tape Japan appears to be the most technical of the bunch. US has alot of heart … But so does Japan.

  32. pancholama says:

    Sverge got schooled.

  33. RB says:

    ” A Dutch friend told me a joke. It goes “the definition of football is: 2 sides of 11 players gather, play for 90 minutes and then the Germans win.” ”

    That’s a Gary Lineker quote. Only your friend left out the part about the referee making a slew of mistakes. :-)

  34. marco says:

    France was bad at the back all game. USA couldn’t get wide and deep often enough to exploit them.

  35. marco says:

    Japan dominated Sweden all game.

  36. PetedeLA says:

    The only thing I worry about is the fact that the ladies can’t seem to keep possession.

    Fortunately, they have created some fantastic goal scoring opportunities that make you feel that they have earned this final.

    O’Reilly, Rapinoe, and this last goal today from Cheney really stand out to me as top drawer stuff.

    Rampone is also just such a fantastic defender and all around great soccer player. Wambach and Solo give the US the edge, I’d say.

    So glad we’re not going up against Sweden, even if they might have been the easier match up on paper. I don’t trust foreign coaches in situations where they have to go up against their native countries. It’s just a bad situation.

  37. PetedeLA says:

    PS.. is it just me or are these games a bit more fun to watch than the men’s World Cup? The girls seem to show a bit more personality.

  38. pd says:

    Petedela I agree that the women are enjoyable to watch, personally because I can see the game unfold better at the tempo it’s played at. I hate to admit it but I miss a lot at the top flite men’s game until I can rewatch on replay or video, the game has gotten so fast in EPL and La Liga… I also think there is a bit more sincere love of the game on the female side… The kind of competitiveness (particularly the aggressive tackling) and win and get paid vibe you see in the men’s sport is sometimes downright ugly. Plus, let’s be honest, it’s tale Ted ladies playing the best sport in the world. What’s NOT to love?

  39. pd says:


  40. Dennis says:

    National team coaches should not be expected to be the ones who help players develop skills, certainly not at the senior level. When coaches select the team of players they think will do best, a lot goes into it including accessing the skill of many players. The coach can expect more creative skills, but by the time players arrive at a national team camp, it is a bit late to make the emphasis on improving skills (other than enough work to stay sharp and enough criticism to let players know what is not good enough). I am sure you will not hear Bradley say negative things in the press about players, but I am equally sure that he will be quite frank with the players in private concerning the things they must improve.

  41. Brad says:

    I don’t think we steam-roll over Japan. Seeing as how France was dominating the women for 75% of the game with their possession game, I think Japan could do so as well. Our best shot to win is to score off of corners and set pieces because the way the USA is playing I’m not convinced we’ll do so in the run of play.

  42. biff says:

    agree the ladies were tired and came out in the second half with rubber legs. But that is what makes this win so impressive, to have avoided the mistakes made by BB after the great Algeria win in WC2010 by not being prepared for Ghana and starting the wrong line-up and, subsequently, losing a heart-breaker to Ghana. The ladies put the epic Brazil win behind them and, fortunately, have a coach savvy enough to make two brilliant substitutions at perfect times to fire the team back up and score two quick goals and put the game away.

    The ladies no doubt will benefit from an extra day rest before the final, but Japan is a great well-coached team peaking at the right time and has momentum behind them. It appears they now alsowill have the German fans behind them. And they seem like a great group of players, my second favorite team in the tournament.

    @JoeW: Yes, I am one of those fans who feels the USMNT would be well served if Bob Bradley would step down. Pia Sundhage would not be my first choice to replace him, but I do think Sundhage would be more successful with the boys than BB and if I had to choose between the two I would definitely put Sundhage in charge.

  43. Francois says:

    I wouldn’t agree with that, our girls created plenty of chances from the run of play, and I feel we can continue to do that. While set pieces will be a huge advantage, I don’t believe we will be reliant on them.

  44. Brad says:

    Cheney’s goal was our only shot in the game until the Rapinoe sub, we were greatly out-shot against France. For me that’s not a lot of scoring chances in the run of play…

  45. marco says:

    It’s not about improving skills, but re-enforcing them, and emphasizing its importance. Ex: Good passing sides stop the ball correctly to have more time to pass. There is a US player on the Sounders who more than half the time pops the ball up when receiving a pass. He is always rushed to just collect the ball, making a simple pass a luxury for him. My guess is that he learned the proper technique at ten, practiced the technique at HS, and University, but fell back into sloppy habits because of poor coaching. To say that the Japan women can stop a ball correctly but US athletes cannot is a Sunilism I can’t accept.

  46. marco says:

    The last Men’s WC turned ugly when great footballing sides like Brazil, Spain, and Netherlands played Jose ball, foul and defend. Even their supporters were disappointed in the change.

  47. Steve says:

    Perhaps technically in terms of a shot on goal, you’re right; however, both Lloyd and Wambach had headers that narrowly missed the frame before Rapinoe came on. I’ll be interested to see who Sundhage starts at the mid and forward line, given recent performances by certain of the starters–

  48. Steve says:

    O’Reilly is one of my favorite players to watch, because she just radiates intensity. I hope the extra day of rest allows her groin to heal better, as she’s really tough to stop when she’s healthy (plus she showed very well in the friendlies against Japan a month or so ago).

  49. Steve says:

    Good analysis of Japan’s defensive weaknesses; I haven’t gone back to watch the Sweden-Japan game, but now I know what to look for! I do know WNT looked sharp against Japan in the 2 earlier friendlies, but I think they may have been missing Sawa–and she’s had a remarkable Cup.