VANCOUVER: Aya Sameshima and Yuika Sugasawa scored early to hand champions Japan a 2-1 win over Cameroon and the first berth for the knockout rounds of the women s World Cup on Friday.
The Japanese took control of the game in Vancouver early with defender Sameshima opening after just six minutes and forward Sugasawa getting the second after 17 minutes.
Cameroon desperately fought back with Ajara Nchout reducing the deficit after 90 minutes. A Gaelle Enganamouit header flew left of goal and Augustine Ejangue was off target in the final actions of the night.
“I expected the game to be pretty intense and it was, there were so many close moments. It was great fun,” said a delighted Japan coach Norio Sasaki after his team became the first to reach the knockout round.
“Cameroon really did their best pressing. We needed to fight until the end.”
Japan have a maximum six points after two games having beaten Switzerland 1-0 in their opener.
Switzerland have three points after their 10-1 thrashing of Ecuador earlier Friday, along with Cameroon, who beat the South Americans 6-0 on Monday.
Ecuador have no points, and are the first team to be eliminated from the World Cup.
“It was very difficult for us tonight, we came up against a very good Japanese side,” said Cameroonian coach Enow Ngachu, whose side next play Switzerland as both sides bid to reach the last 16 along with Japan.
Japan took the lead after Kobe Leonessa player Sameshima fired home a cross from Nahomi Kawasumi only six minutes into the game at BC Place Stadium.
The Nadeshiko doubled their advantage when Ichihara Chiba Ladies player Sugasawa headed captain Aya Miyama s corner kick past Annette Ngo Ndom in the Cameroon goal.
The Africans nearly broke through before the break when Gabrielle Onguene s cross to Enganamouit almost found its target, but Ayumi Kaihori did well to keep it out, with Madeleine Ngono Mani also missing the net.
Japan held on despite Cameroon s determined push, with the Asian champions celebrating on the pitch after reaching the round of 16 with one game to spare.
“It was a difficult game but we had teamwork and unity,” said Miyama. “There are problems we have to resolve for the next game, but overall I think we had a good match.”
The final round of group games takes place on Tuesday with Japan playing Ecuador in Winnipeg and Cameroon taking on Switzerland in Edmonton.
The top two teams in each group advance to the last 16 along with the four best third-place finishers.