(AFP) – Aug 18, 2008
BEIJING (AFP) — Defending champions the United States finished full of running to overpower Japan 4-2 and advance to the final of the Olympic women's football competition at the Beijing Workers' Stadium on Monday.
The two-time gold medallists came from a goal down to win a pulsating match with a double from Angela Hucles, a cracker from Lori Chalupny, and Heather O'Reilly after Shinobu Ohno had put Japan ahead in the 16th minute.
Substitute Eriko Arakawa pulled one back for Japan in the third minute of injury time.
In the other semi in Shanghai, Brazil came from a goal down to stun Germany 4-1 to avenge their defeat to the Germans in last year's World Cup final.
The Beijing final will be a repeat of the Athens gold medal match in 2004 where the USA beat Brazil 2-1 after extra time.
"Japan played very well, they forced us to play the way we did and the good part about that is the way they knock it around and even though they scored first we stayed focused and we believed in what we were doing," USA coach Pia Sundhage said.
"We bounced back. We don't have one star, we have 18. It is a great feeling with these players on and off the pitch."
Chalupny, playing in her first Olympics and whose goal turned the match, said: "We all knew we had to pick it up. The team concentration is awesome and it's all coming together."
USA have won the Olympic gold twice - in 1996 and 2004 - and finished over the top of the tiring Japanese before almost 51,000 fans.
Japanese skipper Hiromi Ikeda said although her team lost they will continue to dream of beating their nemesis.
"We lost to the USA four years ago in Athens, so we prepared for four years," Ikeda said.
"Although we lost tonight, we made it into the top four, which took us 10 years. We lost tonight, but we will maintain our dream of beating the USA."
Japan scored first when Yukari Kinga found Ohno unmarked inside the six-yard box and she drilled the ball home past American goalkeeper Hope Solo from point-blank range.
The Japanese looked the more likely to score in the opening half with intricate passing and movement off the ball before the match swung America's way with two goals in three minutes nearing halftime.
Amy Rodriguez won the ball on the right and her cross eluded two Japanese defenders for unmarked Hucles to tap from close range to equalise.
A minute before the break Chalupny cut in from the left and unleashed a thumping volley high into the net to give the USA a 2-1 lead with the momentum surging their way.
The Americans went further ahead in the 70th minute when a speculator from Heather O'Reilly flew over Japanese goalie Miho Fukumoto and into the net for 3-1.
Hucles grabbed her second goal and her fourth for the tournament when she beat Fukumoto with a tightly-angled volley at the near post with 10 minutes left to kill off any hopes of a Japanese comeback.
The victory continued the Americans' dominance over Japan after beating them 1-0 in the group stages as well as 2-1 in the quarter-finals in Athens.
Japan have lost all their matches against the US in their five most recent World Cups and Olympics.
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