Saori Ariyoshi and Mizuho Sakaguchi scored to put defending champions Japan through to a quarter-final showdown with Australia by beating the Netherlands 2-1 at the Women’s World Cup.
The Japanese controlled their last-16 game from the outset with defender Ariyoshi scoring her first goal for the “Nadeshiko” after 10 minutes and midfielder Sakaguchi getting the second after 78 minutes.
Kirsten Van de Ven headed in a consolation goal for the 12th-ranked Dutch two minutes into injury time, helped by an error from Japanese goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori, who let the ball slip through her grasp.
“We lost against a really good Japanese team,” said Dutch coach Roger Reijners.
“If we hadn’t had such strong opposition we might have gotten something out of it. They are world champions and have great players.”
Japan coach Norio Sasaki admitted his world number four side, the only Women’s World Cup team to have won every match so far, should have closed the game down earlier.
View galleryJapan defender Saori Ariyoshi (C) is embraced by teammates …
Japan defender Saori Ariyoshi (C) is embraced by teammates Shonobu Ohno (R) and Yuki Ogimi (L) after …
“We probably could have had better control of the ball, but we had a tense moment,” said Sasaki.
“We ended every attack with a shot on goal. That was the key. I’m sorry we kept you in suspense until the end.”
The champions overpowered the Dutch newcomers from the outset and could have been further ahead at half-time but for some poor finishing.
Aya Sameshima missed a golden opportunity for a second after 22 minutes but hit over the bar from close range, and further chances also went astray, with Shinobu Ohno firing over just before the half-time whistle..
After the break, Mandy Van den Berg almost inadvertently turned home an own goal following Nahomi Kawasumi’s cross.
Sakaguchi had a shot blocked at 67 minutes and defender Aya Sameshima was saved by a superb block by Kaihori from a close range effort from Van De Ven on 76 minutes.
But two minutes later, Sakaguchi got the winner from the edge of the penalty area, with a last-gasp effort from Vivianne Miedema failing to get an equaliser.
“Aya Miyama passed to me. I thought I should try even if it’s not my strong point,” Sakaguchi said.
Japan coach Sasaki said his side’s game had been helped by the heavily watered artificial turf at BC Place Stadium.
“We actually ran the most today on this pitch. There was a lot of water and we could run very well.
“I’m going to ask maintenance to keep it watered so the game can move fast. It’s better for both teams.”
The Netherlands needed a win to book their ticket to the 2016 Olympic Games along with Germany and France but could now face a play-off for the third remaining European berth.
In other last-eight fixtures, top-ranked Germany play third-ranked France in Montreal on Friday while China take on Olympic champions United States in Ottawa and hosts Canada clash with England at Vancouver on Saturday.