2015 Womens World Cup SemifinalsIn an intriguing day’s action at Canada, Australia couldn’t overcome defending champions Japan in the quarterfinal on Saturday. The heat at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium was beating down on the players’ backs as they vied for superiority on the field. Just when, the match looked like going to extra time and penalty shoot-out thereafter, Australia were thunderstruck by Japan’s 87th minute winner. The day’s second match at Vancouver involved hosts Canada playing against England and the entire nation hinged its hope for the Canadian victory. That didn’t happen despite Canada engaging with their opponents in a fascinating battle. The contest had a whirlwind start and numerous moments of thrill. With England taking a 2-0 lead within 15 minutes, the crowd support for the home nation was still raucous. Just before the break, Canada’s captain Christine Sinclair, pounced on a handling error committed by England’s goalkeeper Karen Bardsley and reduced the deficit to 2-1. With the entire second half to follow, Sinclair’s goal gave the Canadians a lifeline. But nothing changed in the second half though there was no shortage of the thrilling moments. In the end, England shattered the nation’s dream by scoring a 2-1 victory.

Defending champions Japan didn’t have it easy against the hugely committed Australian women in the quarterfinal at Edmonton. Japan had the lion’s share of the ball and that deprived the Australians to exhibit their attacking style, seen in earlier matches. Japan launched the attack in the beginning as Shinobu Ohno displayed her composure and ingenuity by taking a shot at the goal from a long pass. To her disappointment, the ball flew over the crossbar. Minute later, Ohno charged into the Australian goal area once again and picked up a low cross from Nahomi Kawasumi from the left side. But her effort missed the target once again. Australia made many counter-attacking moves and Sam Kerr led the charge. She won a free kick but Alanna Kennedy’s effort was wasted. Japan made another attempt from a corner kick but Azusa Iwashimizu’s powerful header was cleared in front of the goal-line. Despite attempts from both sides, the first half ended scoreless.

In the second half, Australia showed better command and could have taken the lead but Kerr’s shot from the edge of penalty area was brilliant saved by Japanese goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori. Australia had another close chance within a minute but Emily Van Egmond’s long range effort went over the crossbar. As extra time neared, Japan’s captain Aya Miyama came up with a classy flick that narrowly missed the target at near post. Moments later, Japan got one more chance, when Kawasumi sent a lovely cross to Ogimi but her shot missed the target. The play was confined to the Australian goal area and when Japan got a corner, Australians failed to clear it and ball fell in the path of Iwabuchi in the 87th minute. This time, Iwabuchi was bang on target and Japan sailed into the semifinal. For the place in the final, Japan will have to beat England, who defeated hosts Canada in the second semifinal of the day.

In the second quarterfinal at Vancouver, England played Canada knowing fully well that they were destined to be against a partisan crowd, which would wholeheartedly back the host nation. But disregarding all that, England raced ahead with an early 2-0 lead before anyone could blink! In the 11th minute, a sloppy kick from Canada’s Lauren Sesselmann resulted in the loss of possession as Jodie Taylor made most of the opportunity. The Englishwoman sprinted smartly beat Allysha Chapman on the way before drilling accurately past goalkeeper Erin McLeod. Three minutes later, England doubled their lead, when Fara Williams sent a free-kick to Canada’s back post. Lucy Bronze, rose above Allysha Chapman and sent a powerful header into the goal to leave the BC Place Stadium stunned. Canadians tried to come back into the game but England played with confidence after the 2-0 lead. Three minutes before halftime, Canada pulled one back, when Ashley Lawrence’s attempt was spilled by Bardsley in the path of Christine Sinclair and the Canada skipper made no mistake. In the second half, Canada pressed hard to find the equalizer but couldn’t succeed because England also found opportunities of counter-attack. No goals accrued in the thrilling second half and it turned out to be England’s day at Vancouver. Their next match is scheduled for Wednesday against Japan at Edmonton.