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Monday, August 6, 2012

UPDATED: Japan Women Beat France - Advance to Women's Soccer Olympic Final

In what had to be the most exciting soccer match I have ever seen Japan barely hung on to defeat France 2-1 to advance to the finals of the 2012 London Olympic finals.

At the 31st minute, Japan has a free-kick in the French zone from about 40 yards out... a nice long kick that causes the French defenders and the Japanese forwards to track back towards the French goal... the French goalie Sarah Bouhaddhi goes up to catch it and flubs it! The ball falls down about 6feet from the goal line, and with two very surprised French defenders draped upon her Ogimii Yuki (surname first) slides and hooks the ball just over the goal line for a 1-0 Japan lead. 

Japan is playing well, but is not - excluding the first five minutes - pushing the ball much into the French zone, a fact backed up by the 8-1 margin in shots in favor of France at the end of 45-minutes with no stoppage time added.

Truthfully, despite the French edge in shots, France has not looked overly dangerous. No balls sailing over the net, and only one diving save needed by the Japanese keeper that was not that hard a shot to save.

Yes, it should have been a nil-nil draw at the half if not for the French keeper's miscue.

I admit I missed this one - Japan's second goal - as I was typing out the above, but in the 51st minute Sakaguchi Mazuho (surname first) scored from yet another 40-yard free kick, as he headed it home to the left corner of the French net. No chance at all for the French keeper on that one.

By the 70th minute - this game was being controlled completely by France a Japan went into a defensive shell!

France launched wave after wave of attack on the Japanese, who were, playing okay, but truly, full marks to the Japanese goalie.

In the 75th minute France scored to make it 2-1, as the French forward pushed the ball high to the left of teh Japanese net - almost to the goal line area before passing back to a wide open #9 LeSommer, the blonde French goddess who buried the ball to the far right of the Japanese keeper Fukumoto Miho (surname first).

In the 77th minute, LeSommer was taken down in the Japanese box - penalty shot. Every person in the stadium held their breath as the French captain #6 Elsie Bussaglia marched up and drove the ball to the left of the keeper wide of the net. (I believe it was #6... though I think I wrote down #15... my apologies here).

In the 89th minute, in one of the rare moments when Japan actually got the ball out of their end, Japan's #17 Ogimi had a breakaway with two defenders chasing her down - and catching her... and yet she still moved to the center from the right wing and clanked the ball of the post to the left of the French goalkeeper.

You would think that would be it, as Japan then tried to kill the remaining time... but no... in the 94th and 95th minute France had lovely tries at the equalizer, with the Japanese keeper Fukumoto being the player of the match for Japan in my opinion. (LeSommer in her 20 minutes of action, for the French team).

The final tally shows 25 efforts for the French versus 4 for Japan, with France actually forcing Japan's keeper to make 11 saves.
France was the better team in this one. Japan scoring both its goals off long-range freekicks... with only the French keeper's boner on the first goal being the real stinker - and the missed penalty kick, too. Otherwise, Japan was damn lucky. Lucky to have gotten away with the victory.

France looks to be a great soccer team and one that will give a lot of countries fits with their offensive capabilities. Well one. You can hold your head up in defeat knowing you were unlucky.

Japan - they are going to have to play better than that if they expect to take home the Gold. They will play the winner of Canada-USA taking place shortly.

That game is over - the USA defeated a plucky Canadian squad 4-3 in extra time... scoring in the 122 minute - about 20 seconds from taking the game into penalty kicks. Full credit to the US for the win. They deserved it, BUT that third goal was ridiculous... yes it was a deserved penalty kick after a handball in the box, but it shouldn't have even got to that point! Canada's goalie with the ball did a drop kick... tossing the ball in the air from her box, the ball landed just on the edge of the box and she kicked the ball.That was called a foul... an indirect free kick that lead to the penalty shot.

I suppose it was because the ref thought the ball was dropped outside the box, meaning the keeper threw the ball to her self before kicking it. If that's a rule, it's a stupid one and I'm impressed then if the ref got it right.

No wait - it has come to light that the referee assessed Canada the penalty because the keeper held the ball longer than 6 seconds. No one has ever heard of that rule. I suppose kudos to ref for knowing that rule. No one has ever heard that penalty called before! Certainly not in a semi-final match. Certainly without a warning given first. How sad that the referee decided the match. She also failed to notice a handball by the USA minutes earlier in their own box that should have been a penalty shot!

Bravo to the USA and Canada for a great match. Bravo to France and Japan for a great match. 

Still... Japan will play the USA for the gold medal on Thursday, August 9, 2012, with Canada playing France for the Bronze earlier that day.

Japan over the USA 2-1 - but only if they score from the air. 

By Andrew Joseph
Photos taken from MY television.

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