Women’s World Cup Correspondent
Last two Asian representatives, China and Japan, couldn’t progress further to reach the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup quarter-final after losses against Italy and the Netherlands respectively last night. Both followed Australia’s path, the other Asian representatives who have already been eliminated by Norway.
The 90s powerhouse China were shocked by a win from the European dark horse Italy. The Azzurre already found the net in the first 10 minutes but Valentina Giancinti was called offside by the referee before her shot found it’s way into Peng Shimeng’s net. But 5 minutes later the Milan striker finally got her name on the scoreboard after getting a rebound in the penalty box.
The Steel Roses also presented a threat to Italy’s goal but Aurora Galli’s goal in the 50th minute from outside of the box made the situation harder for Wang Shuang and her colleagues.
2011 Champions Japan faced a similarly difficult situation as they conceded a beautiful goal from Lieke Martens after just 17 minutes. After getting an assist by Sherida Spitse from the corner kick, Lieke did a backheel which nutmegged Yuika Sugasawa before going into the Nadeshiko’s net at the far post.
But Japan kept their hopes alive as Yui Hasegawa scored an equalizer two minutes before the half time. Japan looked more confident and pressed the Oranje Leeuwinnen as Hina Sugita got a chance at the 79th minutes with a powerful shot from inside of the box that only hit the bar. A minute later Yuka Momiki had another chance that was saved by Sari van Veenendaal.
When the match looks like ended draw in normal time, Nadeshiko captain, veteran Saki Kumagai, was caught for a controversial handball in the penalty box. Lieke Martens came forward as the taker and made no mistake from the spot, sending goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita into the wrong direction and taking the defending European Cup winners through the quarter-final.
This is the first time in Women’s World Cup history that is are Asian representatives in the quarter-final. From the inaugural season at 1991 until the 2011 edition, even when just 16 teams competed in the final, there has always been at least one Asian representative which featured in the last eight.
In the 2015 edition in Canada, when the tournament was expanded to include 24 teams, three Asian sides – Australia, Japan, and China – all featured in the quarter-finals. Even South Korea progressed beyond the group stage, which was a feat that they were unable to replicate at this edition of the tournament.
This year’s World Cup edition will also be a historic one for European for Italy and the Netherlands, who have qualified for the quarter-finals for the first time after knocking out China and Japan. Seven of eight contenders in the quarter-final zone are from Europe, with the reigning champion the United States as the only exception, which already guarantees that at least one of European side will play in the final in Lyon on the 7th July.