Sounders FC

Japan ensures no German three-peat in World Cup soccer

Japan knocked two-time defending champion Germany out of the Women’s World Cup on Saturday in Wolfsburg, Germany, advancing to the semifinals with a 1-0 victory when substitute Karina Maruyama outran the defense and scored on an angled shot in extra time.

Japan absorbed relentless pressure during the match, gaining its first World Cup semifinal and handing Germany its first loss in the tournament in a dozen years.

Standout midfielder Homare Sawa spotted Maruyama’s deep run in the 108th minute, served her perfectly, and Maruyama slipped it past goalie Nadine Angerer to silence the sellout crowd of 26,067 and an expectant nation.

“I saw her running, I saw the gap in the defense and I gave the assist,” Sawa said.

The 32-year-old’s field vision and precision passing earned her the player of the match award.

“I take my hat off to her,” said Germany coach Silvia Neid. “It is her fifth World Cup, and she still plays so well.”

Germany threw everything forward in the final dozen minutes, but it didn’t matter. As throughout the tension-filled match, the bounces didn’t go the host’s way.

“I am so happy. We all fought together until the end,” Maruyama said. “It was not my success, but that of the whole team.”

Germany’s fear of elimination appeared to douse its creativity, and the quarterfinal turned into a test of survival. In the end it was the “Japanese game” that coach Norio Sasaki promised that made the difference – one of precision passing and lightness of feet that outdid two hours of grinding and pushing by the Germans.

Germany had not lost a World Cup game going back to a quarterfinal defeat to the United States in 1999.

The loss also meant the likely end of the World Cup career of Birgit Prinz, Germany’s best player and the tournament’s all-time leading scorer. After two disappointing games, she was benched for the last group game and again in the quarterfinal. She came off to shake hands.

France 4, England 3 (PK): England’s fate was sealed when captain Faye White missed the decisive kick in Leverkusen, Germany.

White’s effort – after Eugenie Le Sommer tied the score for France – hit the crossbar to send France through to a semifinal against the winner of today’s quarterfinal between Brazil and the U.S.

The game ended 1-1 after normal time and extra time.

Elise Bussaglia equalized in the 88th minute following Jill Scott’s 59th-minute goal for England before 26,395 fans at Bay Arena.