- Japan Scores Game-Winner Off Corner Kick in 84th Minute
- USA Loses for First Time in 2012 and for First-Time Ever in Regulation to Japan
- U.S. WNT Will Face Sweden in Third-Place Match of Algarve Cup on March 7 in Parchal at 5:15 a.m. ET on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker
FARO, Portugal (March 5, 2012) – In a match short on attacking chances for both sides, the U.S. Women’s National Team fell to Japan 1-0 in the first meeting between the two countries since the historic 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final last summer in Germany.
Japanese substitute Megumi Takase headed home Aya Miyama’s corner kick service in the 84th minute and the USA’s furious push for the equalizer did not come to fruition.
The Americans entered the match needing a win or a tie to advance to its 10th consecutive Algarve Cup championship game, and as the contest entered its final stages, it looked as if a 0-0 draw would be good enough to earn the Americans a shot at their third consecutive and ninth overall title in this tournament.
However, with about six minutes left, Japan put together one of its few deep penetrations into the U.S. defensive third in the second half, crossing from the right side to the far post where defender Amy LePeilbet, who was under pressure from an attacking player, had to head the ball over her own end line for a corner kick.
Miyama’s service flew to the far post and Takase met it with a thunderous header, powering the ball into the right side of the net from just outside the six yard box. The goal came off Japan’s only corner kick of the game and its only shot of the second half.
“I think in the first half, we looked very nervous and the decision-making was off,” said U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage. “Too many times we gave away the ball in situations when we were not even under pressure or in tight spaces. We couldn’t keep the ball enough to be dangerous. When you give away the ball against Japan, they keep it. It’s so much defending. Mentally and physically, that’s tough, but I am happy with the changes we made at halftime and even parts of the first half where we tried to play more direct. I think we looked more dangerous and came up with a couple of chances, but overall you could tell there is a lot of things to work on and especially looking at Japan, their technique and how they keep the ball. They should be role models for the world, the way they play.”
The USA will now play for third place against Sweden, a 4-0 loser to Germany in the final match of Group A, on March 7 in Parchal. The match will kick off at 5:15 a.m. ET and fans can follow the action on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker and on Twitter @ussoccer_wnt.
A jittery U.S. team put together a poor first half in which Japan had the majority of possession while the Americans struggled to string passes together. Still, the U.S. actually put the ball in the net just seven minutes into the game after Abby Wambach headed a long Christie Rampone free kick to Alex Morgan inside the six-yard box. The young forward volleyed her chance into the left corner but it was immediately waved away for offside.
The USA’s best chance of the half came in the 26th minute as Morgan ran onto a long ball over the defense, out-muscled a defender and struck a left-footed drive off the base of the right post from 16 yards out.
Sundhage gave starts to Lauren Cheney at right midfield and Amy Rodriguez on the left. But by the beginning of the second half, Sundhage had changed out three-fourths of her midfield. Sundhage sent on Lori Lindsey for Carli Lloyd in the 31st minute and then switched out both flank players at halftime, inserting Megan Rapinoe and Heather O’Reilly. She also sent on Stephanie Cox for Kelley O’Hara at left back to start the second half.
The U.S. did have more of the game and better possession in the second half, but Japan still held the ball very well, although at times the team seemed in no rush to get forward. Outside of several low crosses that U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo had to snag, and the winning goal, Japan did not threaten the U.S. net after the break.
While the Japanese did well at times to possess the ball in front of the USA’s back line, the Americans’ team defense did a fine job of keeping the dangerous players away from the goal and no one got behind central defenders Rachel Buehler and Rampone all afternoon.
On the other end, Morgan caused the Japanese trouble with her speed and tenacity all match, but she had several crosses from dangerous spots blocked or cleared and failed to find the frame on a few other decent chances. In the 57th minute, Morgan was able to beat Japanese goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto to a ball in the right side of the penalty area. As Morgan touched it by her, she went to ground, but it was unclear if she had made contact with the Japanese ’keeper. Morgan popped to her feet immediately still in possession of the ball, but her cross found no one in the center of the box.
One minute later, Cox sent in a driven cross from the left flank. The ball was headed up in the air and fell to Morgan, who blasted her volley just over the crossbar.
In the 63rd minute, it was Morgan again who got a good look at the goal. This time a nice build-up got the ball to Wambach with her back to goal near the top of the penalty area. She turned and slipped a pass through to Morgan, who evaded a defender, but her angled left-footed shot from the right side of the penalty box went wide left.
In the 81st minute, Rapinoe had a go from distance, but her strike was saved by the diving Fukumoto at the right post. Young forward Sydney Leroux replaced Wambach in the 72nd minute and looked dangerous with several powerful runs, but she too could not find the net after scoring in the first two Algarve Cup games.
Sundhage sent on Tobin Heath for LePeilbet in the 87th minute in a last ditch effort to find an equalizer, and the USA produced two golden chances in the waning moments. The first came after Shannon Boxx was taken down hard about 30 yards from the goal, but Rapinoe spun her free kick shot wide left. Then Boxx got on the end of a Cox cross off a free kick from the left side but agonizingly bounced her header over the goal from about 10 yards out.
Additional Match Notes:
- The Americans suffered their first shutout of the year and first since a 0-0 tie with South Korea on Nov. 5, 2008. The U.S. Women had gone 57 games since last failing to score in a match.
- It was the USA’s first loss of the year after eight consecutive wins to start 2012.
- The loss broke a 31-match unbeaten streak in regulation time at the Algarve Cup. The USA had not lost a game in regulation at this tournament since March 18, 2004, a 3-1 setback to Sweden.
- In Group A, Germany thrashed Sweden 4-0 and will face Japan in the title game in what will be a rematch of Japan’s epic quarterfinal victory over the Germans during the Women’s World Cup last summer.
- The USA has failed to beat Sweden in the last three meetings between the countries. The USA lost 2-1 at the 2011 Four Nations Tournament in China, fell 2-1 in group play at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup and tied 1-1 in an exhibition during the last match of 2011 in Glendale, Ariz. The USA out-shot Japan 7-5 but put just two shots on goal, its lowest total in recent memory.
- U.S. Women’s National Team Match Report -
Match: U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Japan
Date: March 5, 2012
Competition: 2012 Algarve Cup – Group B
Venue: Estadio Algarve; Faro, Portugal
Kickoff: 2:10 p.m. Local / 9:10 a.m. ET
Weather: 65 degrees, sunny, breezy
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 1 1
JPN 0 0 0
JPN – Megumi Takase (Aya Miyama) 84th minute.
USA: 1-Hope Solo; 6-Amy LePeilbet (17-Tobin Heath, 87), 3-Christie Rampone (capt.), 19-Rachel Buehler, 5-Kelley O’Hara (14-Stephanie Cox, 46); 12-Lauren Cheney (9-Heather O’Reilly, 46), 7-Shannon Boxx, 10-Carli Lloyd (16-Lori Lindsey, 31), 8-Amy Rodriguez (15-Megan Rapinoe, 46); 13-Alex Morgan, 20-Abby Wambach (11-Sydney Leroux, 72)
Subs not used: 2-Heather Mitts, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 18-Nicole Barnhart, 22-Whitney Engen
Head coach: Pia Sundhage
JPN: 12-Miho Fukumoto; 2-Yukari Kinga, 3-Azusa Iwashimizu (13-Rumi Utsugi, 65), 4-Saki Kumagai, 5-Aya Sameshima, 14-Asuna Tanaka (16-Kanako Ito, 90+3), 6-Mizuho Sakaguchi (20-Yuika Sugasawa, 79), 8-Aya Miyama, 17-Yuki Nagasato, 7-Kozue Ando (19-Megumi Takase, 65), 11-Shinobu Ohno (9-Nahomi Kawasumi, 65)
Subs not used: 1-Ayumi Kaihori, 15-Saori Ariyoshi, 18-Nanase Kiryu, 21-Mai Kyokawa
Head coach: Norio Sasaki
Statistical Summary: USA / JPN
Shots: 7 / 5
Shots on Goal: 2 / 4
Saves: 3 / 2
Corner Kicks: 1 / 1
Fouls: 10 / 5
Offside: 3 / 7
Referee: Pernill Larsson (SWE)
Assistant Referee: Sanja Rodak (CRO)
Assistant Referee: Petruta Iugulsecu (ROU)
4th Official: Jana Adamkova (CZE)
Bud Light Woman of the Match: Rachel Buehler
U.S. Women's National Team vs. Japan
2012 Algarve Cup
Estadio Algarve; Faro, Portugal
March 5, 2012
U.S. head coach PIA SUNDHAGE
“I think they played like the best team in the world. They kept possession and controlled the attack. Even though we made some changes at halftime, and looked more dangerous in the second half, still they got a goal off a corner. The way they play both defensively and in the attack is very good.”
On the match…
“I think the first half we looked very nervous and the decision making was off. Too many times we gave away the ball in situations when we were not even under pressure or in tight spaces. We couldn’t keep the ball enough to be dangerous. When you give away the ball against Japan, they keep it. It’s so much defending. Mentally and physically, that’s tough, but I am happy with the changes we made at halftime and even parts of the first half where we tried to play more direct. I think we looked more dangerous and came up with a couple of chances, but overall you could tell there is a lot of things to work on and especially looking at Japan, their technique and how they keep the ball. They should be role models for the world, the way they play.”
On playing better in the second half…
“We played a little more direct and especially the wing players. The fact that we do have good players in the box, I expected more crosses. That’s one way to be dangerous for this team, find a way to change the point of attack and hit quality crosses. It was a little better in the second half I think.”
U.S. midfielder HEATHER O’REILLY
On the match…
“Japan played a very tough game against us. I think more than anything, it opens our eyes to areas we can improve in. Better now that we have this experience than later during the Olympics. I think we have a lot to learn from and a lot grow from, but we’re trying to pull the positives out of it.”
On the U.S. team…
“I think we continued to fight and that’s what this team is always about, until 93 minutes we’re pushing for that goal. We had a few more looks at the net in the second half, which is good, but we can learn from the Japanese team that we need to keep the ball.”
U.S. forward ABBY WAMBACH
On Japan finishing their only shot of the second half…
“Obviously the Japanese team is really good at keeping possession of the ball, but they took care of their one opportunity that they really had. Obviously, they had some free kicks and what-not, but that might have been the best chance of the game.”
“The Japanese team is fantastic. They have so many great players. They keep such good possession that it’s really difficult to get a rhythm because you don’t have as much possession as you normally do. It’s something to think about and to move forward with and train against, so when we go to Japan (in April) and maybe see them in the Olympics, we can fare better and play better.”
On facing Japan’s extremely skillful team…
“You have to stay patient and not get so frustrated with the lack of possession. Japanese players are so technical, they force you into pulling yourself out of shape defensively. You have to stay very committed and be patient in the defense and take advantage of the few opportunities you get in a game like that.”
On the match…
“They’re the world champions, so whenever you can test yourself against the world champions is always a great opportunity for your team. You learn a lot. The Japanese team puts every team they play in difficult situations. I’m proud of the way we played today, but the Japan finished their chance and deserved to win. Over the last five years, the Japanese team has by far and away the most improved team. They are the team to beat and we know that.”
U.S. forward ALEX MORGAN
On the match…
“It was a very difficult loss, obviously, but I think today japan was the better team and now we need to look forward to the game against them in Japan (on April 1).”
On the match…
“They are a very possession-oriented team and we struggle with that at times. It was difficult for us to keep possession. We gained some momentum in the second half, but we never fully got it.”
On looking forward…
“I don’t think we did enough to win this match. Japan was the better team today. There are some things we need to work on and looking forward to the Olympics, the next time we meet a team like Japan we will be the better team on the field that day.”