2015 FIFA World Cup Semifinals
Japan vs England
Commonwealth Stadium – Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Wednesday, July 1, 2015, 7:00 pm Eastern, TV: Fox Sports 1, NBC Universo
Spread: England +1/2 (-133) / Japan +1/2 (+118)
Money Line: England +289 / Japan +117 / Draw +226
Odds to Advance: Japan -190 / England +165
Total: under 2 (-125) / over 2 (+110)
Japan and England meet in the World Cup for the third straight time. However, the two previous meetings were in the group stage. Now the two teams meet in the semifinals of the 2015 World Cup with a berth in Sunday’s Final on the line. The winner will play the United States in the championship in Vancouver, after the Americans beat top ranked Germany 2-0 Tuesday in the first semifinal. The loser between England and Japan will play Germany in the third place match Saturday in Edmonton.
Japan was placed in Group C as the top seed. The Japanese are #4 in the World rankings. Japan is the only team in the tournament that has not suffered a loss or a draw. Every match has been decided by one goal though. In Group play, Japan beat Switzerland 1-0, Cameroon 2-1 and Ecuador 1-0. In the round of 16, Japan beat the Netherlands 2-1. The Japanese led 2-0 but gave up a very soft goal late to make the final appear closer than it was.
In the quarterfinals Saturday in Edmonton, Japan played Australia. Japan dominated play holding possession for 60% of the match. They had 15 shots to 8 for Australia. Still Japan couldn’t break through against Australian keeper Lydia Williams. The game appeared headed to extra time scoreless until forward Mana Iwabuchi scored the winning goal at 87 minutes. Iwabuchi came in as a sub at 72 minutes. The Japanese advanced to the semifinals for the second straight World Cup after winning it in 2011 with the 1-0 win.
England was placed in group F for the World Cup. The English are #6 in the World Rankings. England lost to rival France 1-0 in the opening match. Since then the English have won four straight matches all by identical 2-1 scores. England beat Mexico and Colombia in the group stage. Both England and France finished with six points but the French won the group via goal differential. In the round of 16, England beat Norway. After trailing 1-0 against Norway in the second half, England scored two goals in 15 minutes to win the match and advance to the quarterfinals. It was the first ever knockout stage win for England.
England played host nation Canada in the quarterfinals Saturday in Vancouver. England scored two goals in the first 15 minutes from forward Jodie Taylor and Lucy Bronze. Canada would go on to dominate play holding possession for 58% of the match and having 14 shots to 8. Canadian captain forward Christine Sinclair scored at 42 minutes. However, Canada couldn’t get the equalizer past English keeper Karen Bardsley. England advanced to the semifinals for the first time ever in the Women’s World Cup.
England leads the series 1-0-2 against Japan. England gave Japan their only defeat in the 2011 World Cup with a 2-0 win in the group stage in Germany. The teams played to a 2-2 draw in the group stage in China in 2007.
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Japan is coached by Norio Sasaki. Japan uses a 4-4-2 formation on defense but switches to a 3-4-3 on offense. It keeps opponents off balance and leads to mistakes.
Goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori has been very good in the tournament, except for the almost costly error against the Netherlands. Captain Aya Miyami has a goal and two assists in the tournament. Legendary midfielder Homare Sawa is playing in her sixth and final World Cup. But much like Abby Wambach for the United States, she is mostly a bench player now.Yuki Ogimi is also a dangerous scorer and physical player.
England is coached by Mark Sampson. England uses a 4-1-3-2 formation. England is more known for their defense but have scored eight goals in the tournament.
Keeper Karen Bardsley has conceded 5 goals in the tournament including 3 in the second half. Midfielder Karen Carney has two goals in the tournament as does Bronze. Midfielder Fara Williams has a goal and 2 assists. Defender Steph Houghton, forward Fran Kirby and Taylor also have a goal each.
Both these teams have been living on the edge with five straight one goal games. Japan is more technically sound but England is playing on more emotion. I think Japan finds a way to win a close match. This time England finds themselves on the wrong end of a 2-1 score. That will set up a rematch with the United States of a classic final from 2011, in which Japan won in penalty kicks.
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