Japan denied US hat-trick

Women's World Cup holders Japan miss the chance to beat rivals for a third time with draw in Olympic warm-up.

    Japan's Yukari Kinga kicked off proceedings but her side were unable to hold their advantage [REUTERS]

    World Cup holders Japan were held 1-1 by the United States in a women's football friendly on Sunday, failing in their bid to beat the Olympic champions for the third time running.

    Japan's 'Nadeshiko' bullied their way in front in quake-ravaged Sendai with a superb move in the 32nd minute.

    Nahomi Kawasumi's clever lobbed pass released right-back Yukari Kinga, who smashed home the loose ball from close range after her initial cross had been blocked.

    Alex Morgan equalised for the world's top-ranked side with a clinical finish after 72 minutes, punishing the Japanese for missing several chances to add to their lead.

    "We sucked up a lot of pressure but we were aggressive ourselves," Japan coach Norio Sasaki said.

    "It is a good draw, looking ahead to the Olympics."

    Olympic ambitions

    The Americans are taking part in the three-team Kirin Challenge Cup in Japan along with Brazil in a clash of potential semi-finalists at this year's London Olympics.

    Japan's women stunned everyone by beating the mighty Americans on penalties in the World Cup final in Frankfurt last July to become the first Asian side to win a world title.

    Their astonishing World Cup victory gave a traumatised nation a psychological boost after last year's deadly tsunami, which triggered a nuclear crisis north of Tokyo.

    "More than anything we wanted to win for the people of Sendai, who have suffered so much," said Sasaki.

    "But we'll take great fighting spirit to London."

    Japan beat the US 1-0 at the Algarve Cup last month, before losing to Germany in the final.

    "It was a very important game for us," US coach Pia Sundhage said, mindful of how damaging another defeat by Japan could have been to team morale before the Olympics.

    "We were doing way too much defending in the first half but we showed a little more composure in the second half." 

    SOURCE: Reuters


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