|Germany’s loss on Saturday marks their first in the tournament since 1999. [Reuters]|
Hosts and defending champions Germany were knocked out of the women’s World Cup on Saturday as they were beaten 1-0 by Japan after extra-time in the quarter-finals.
Having won both the 2003 and 2007 editions, this is the first time Germany have lost at a women’s World Cup since they were beaten 3-2 by hosts the USA in the quarter-finals of the 1999 tournament.
Japan have now got beyond the quarter-finals for the first time as their previous best performance was a last-eight appearance in 1995 in Sweden.
Japan absorbed relentless pressure during regulation time and hit back when it counted.
The winning goal came in the 108th minute when Japan captain Homare Sawa put in a superb long-range pass and substitute Karina Maruyama drilled her shot past Germany goalkeeper Nadine Angerer.
“I saw her running , I saw the gap in the defense and I gave the assist,” Sawa said.
Such sharpness of mind, when others could hardly run, is what won the 32-year-old the player of the match award.
Silvia Neid, Germany coach, said that “I take my hat off to her. It is her fifth World Cup and she still plays so well.”
Germany’s tactical plans already went awry after four minutes when midfielder Kim Kulig hurt her right knee as she was going for a header which just went over.
Neid had counted on her to bring in more power but instead immediately had to replace her.
“It was a shock for us,” said Neid, who counted on Kulig’s ball-winning skills.
Germany threw everything forward in the final dozen minutes, but it did not matter. As throughout the tension-filled match, the ball never fell kindly to the hosts in the goalmouth.
“I am so happy. We all fought together until the end. It was not my success but that of the whole team,” said Maruyama.
Japan will now face either Australia or Sweden, who meet on Sunday, in the semi-final in Frankfurt on Wednesday.