Japan dominate to win Women’s World Cup last-16 match to set up quarter-final with either holders the USA or Sweden.
Hinata Miyazawa scored her fifth goal of the tournament as Japan beat Norway 3-1 in a clash of former champions to reach the quarter-finals of the Women’s World Cup for the fourth time.
Japan have been on a mission to bury the memory of their disappointing exit at the last-16 stage in 2019 and they will now move on to play the winner of Sunday’s clash between holders the United States and Sweden.
Although they conceded their first goal of the tournament to Guro Reiten’s header on Saturday, an own goal from Norway’s Ingrid Engen as well as second-half strikes from Risa Shimizu and Miyazawa got them across the line in front of a crowd of 33,042.
Miyazawa’s 81st-minute goal moved her out of a tie with Germany captain Alexandra Popp as the tournament’s leading goalscorer as well as matching Homare Sawa’s Japanese record for a World Cup set in 2011 when the Nadeshiko clinched the title.
After beating Spain 4-0 with only 23 percent of possession in its group-stage finale, Japan once again was a tactical chameleon in the round of 16 – playing with more than 60 percent of possession in a commanding performance.
Japan traded its regular blue uniform for pastel colours on Saturday, pink and purple. The softer colour scheme did nothing to dull its attacking style; it pressed forward from the start and had its first corner after two minutes.
While it was ineffective, it was an early declaration of intent. With long balls or sharp, quick passing, Japan continually pressed forward and Norway, which conceded only one goal in group play, often seemed rattled at the back.
When the defence finally yielded, it was in unusual circumstances. In the 15th minute, Miyazawa curled the ball in from depth on the left and Engen extended her leg to parry the ball. She managed only to deflect it wide of Aurora Mikalsen in goal for the eighth own goal of the tournament.
Japan seemed well on top but in the 21st minute, and from the first time in the match Norway had threatened, Vilda Boe Risa got away on the right, took the ball to the byline and crossed to the middle where Guro Reiten stood tall and headed wide of the diving Ayaka Yamashita into the left corner.
The goal came entirely against the run of play. Shimizu’s winner came in the 50th minute as Japan pushed forward again from halfway. Miyazawa tried to hold up the ball near the goal, lost possession to Boe Risa, who tried a back pass but rolled the ball into the path of Shimizu rushing in from the right to score.
Miyazawa produced a copybook finish in the 81st, running onto a superb through ball and directing her shot wide of Mikalsen.
Norway and Japan had met only once before at a World Cup, in 1999, when Norway won 4-0.
Spain thrash Switzerland
Earlier the day, Spain’s coach Jorge Vilda said he had “the 23 best players in the world” after Aitana Bonmati starred in a 5-1 demolition of Switzerland to send the Spanish into the Women’s World Cup quarter-finals for the first time.
Bonmati scored twice and got two assists in front of 43,217 at Auckland’s Eden Park – a record for a football match in New Zealand – with Spain playing the Netherlands or South Africa in the last eight.
Bonmati’s early opener in the last-16 tie was cancelled out by a spectacular Laia Codina own goal, but Alba Redondo restored Spain’s lead and Bonmati scored again to make it 3-1.
Codina then made up for her error by getting a fourth before the interval and Jennifer Hermoso made it 5-1 in the second half.
It was a defiant response to Spain’s 4-0 defeat by Japan in their last group game and justified coach Vilda’s decision to leave Alexia Putellas out of his starting lineup.
The reigning Ballon d’Or winner is still recovering her fitness following a serious knee injury and made just a cameo off the bench.
Instead, it was her Barcelona teammate Bonmati who took centre stage, and Vilda was asked if the 25-year-old might now be a candidate to win the next Ballon d’Or.
“Aitana played very well today, she scored goals and was player of the match, but the rest of the team played very well too. We have 23 Ballons d’Or.”