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Will face U.S. Women in rematch of 2011 final

By Gunnar Berndt 

Semifinal: Japan vs. England 2-1

Japan needed a dramatic injury-time own goal from English veteran Laura Bassett to down the Three Lionesses 2-1 on Wednesday. With the win, the defending champions advance to the final against the U.S. Women, who will have a chance to redeem themselves for losing to Japan on penalties in the 2011 title match.

Jodie Taylor first went close in the tightly contested affair, as she released a dangerous effort less than a minute in that whistled just wide of the Japanese frame. Toni Duggan had two more looks for England, firing a snapshot over the bar before failing to make good contact with her attempted volley on a Jill Scott cross. As is often the case, the opening goal came at the other end, Aya Miyama confidently converting a 33rd-minute penalty kick after Azusa Iwashimizu’s flighted ball released Saori Ariyoshi and the wing back was brought down by a clumsy Claire Rafferty challenge from behind.

However, England would draw level with a spot kick of its own a mere seven minutes later, referee Anna-Marie Keighley controversially judging Steph Houghton to have been fouled by Yuki Ogimi and Fara Williams stepping up to smash an unstoppable attempt inside the left upright.

Continuing to pressure after the break, Head Coach Mark Sampson’s side could have grabbed the lead on three separate occasions. After Duggan rattled the crossbar with a beautiful right-footed volley from just inside the area, goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori had to leave her feet to parry substitute Ellen White’s curler from just outside the box around the left post. Scott had the third chance, but her header from a corner kick sailed just wide of the goal.

With the momentum subsequently shifting, Japan created a pair of looks of its own. Substitute Mana Iwabuchi entered the penalty area and fired a shot toward the target, followed by a headed attempt from Mizuho Sakaguchi’s, both players missing wide. The decisive tally finally came in the second minute of stoppage time, as women in blue broke down the right and Iwashimizu swung in a dangerous right-footed cross that was redirected by a sliding Bassett and crossed the goal-line after ricocheting off the underside of the crossbar.

The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup final between the United States and Japan kicks off this coming Sunday at 6 p.m. CT.

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