Three takeaways from Japan-Australia

Defending champion Japan made it five wins in five games at the Women's World Cup with a 1-0 win over Australia in a rematch of the 2014 Asian Cup final. The Nadeshiko dominated the match but needed a goal from sub Mana Iwabuchi, its youngest player, in the 87th minute to set up a semifinal encounter with England on Wednesday in Edmonton.



1. If the Japanese have been anything, it's consistent.

Saturday's 1-0 win for Japan followed a string of four victories all also by one goal: 1-0, 2-1, 1-0 and 2-1.

The Japanese have been in control all tournament -- the two goals they have conceded were scored in the 90th and 92nd minutes -- but have little to show for their domination: just 19 shots on goal and seven goals in five games. They had a 60-40 edge in possession but managed just three shots on goal against Australia, the same total as in the 2-1 win over the Netherlands in the round of 16.

 “The difficulty was the heat," said Japan coach Norio Sasaki of the temperatures that hit 86 degrees -- and much higher on the field -- and forced many fans to seek shade at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium. "It was a challenge to our physical ability and our concentration to keep up for 90 minutes, but we managed to do it.”

2. On cue, Iwabuchi strikes the winning goal.

Great things have been expected of Iwabuchi since she was named the MVP of the inaugural Under-17 Women's World Cup in 2008. Still only 22, she has played the last three seasons in Germany, first for Hoffenheim and more recently for Frauen-Bundesliga champion Bayern Munich.

As he sent her on to the field as a sub in the 72nd minute, Sasaki told Iwabuchi, "It’s time for you to score -- bring us a win."

Iwabuchi was involved in the magnificent insurance goal Japan scored against the Netherlands and scored the winner -- on cue from her coach -- against Australia -- even if she looked to be offside -- after Azusa Iwashimizu's initial shot was blocked by goalkeeper Lydia Williams.

“I just knew I had to score. I’m happy I could contribute to the team,” Iwabuchi said. “I want to continue to be a player who scores at crucial moments.”

3. Matildas have a bright future.

The 2015 Women's World Cup was likely the last for Australian captain Lisa De Vanna. She was outstanding for the Matildas all tournament but had to exit the quarterfinals in the second half because of an ankle injury that had bothered her all tournament. She says she couldn't watch the corner kick that led to the disputed winning goal.

De Vanna will likely stay around for the 2016 Olympics -- Asian qualifying will be held in February -- but retire after that. “I don’t know what I’ll do now,’’ she said after Saturday's game. “I’ve given 110 percent for this team and now I have to take a step back and think of what I want to do next."

She'll leave behind a team with a bright future. The average age of the other nine field players who started against Japan was less than 22 years. "The prospects for the rest of the girls are big," she said, "and to see what they’ve done in the tournament, it’s exciting for them.”

TRIVIA. Japan has won its last eight games at the Women's World Cup -- five in 2015 and three in 2011, including the shootout win over the USA in the final -- since a 2-0 loss to England in the last game of the group stage four years ago.

June 27 in Edmonton
Japan 1 Australia 0. Goal: Iwabuchi 87.
Australia -- Williams; Alleway, Kennedy, Catley, Kellond-Knight; Gorry (Heyman, 76), Van Egmond; Foord, De Vanna (Crummer, 67), Simon (Sykes, 89), Kerr.
Japan -- Kaihori; Ariyoshi, Iwashimizu, Kumagai, Sameshima; Kawasumi, Sakaguchi (Sawa, 90), Utsugi, Miyama; Ohno (Iwabuchi, 72), Ogimi.
Yellow Card: Japan -- Iwashimizu 27.
Referee: Kateryna Monzul (Ukraine).
Att.: 19,814.
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