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Japan on the brink after loss to China

Norio Sasaki needs his team to win twice and get major help to salvage an Olympic bid. (photo courtesy, Asian Football Confederation)

Norio Sasaki needs his team to win twice and get major help to salvage an Olympic bid. (photo courtesy, Asian Football Confederation)

Japan’s hopes of qualifying for the Olympic Games have been reduced to needing a lopsided win over Vietnam plus some help from their rivals. The struggles for the Nadesheko continued Friday when they lost 2-1 to China leaving them winless through three of five matches at the tournament they are hosting. The top two teams out of six will qualify for the Olympic this summer in Rio.

Japan have played in the final of the last three global tournaments, but Friday in Osaka they found themselves trailing China 2-0 after an hour on the strength of goals by Zhang Rui and Gu Yasha. Japan pulled one back in the 65th through Kumi Yokoyana but could do no better. With one point, Japan now needs to defeat Vietnam and North Korea while also hoping China lose to South Korea and Australia and that North Korea do no better than a draw against Australia. Even if all that happens, Norio Sasaki’s side will have to make up a deficit of six in the goal difference column in order to win a tiebreaker from China.

On the other end of the table, Australia moved to the brink of qualification by beating South Korea, 2-0 to remain perfect in the round robin. Kyah Simon followed up her hat trick against Vietnam by scoring in the opening minute and Emily Van Egmond added a 14th minute penalty to send the Matildas on their way. A draw against North Korea on Monday will send Australia to the Olympics.

In Friday’s other affair, North Korea needed a 90th minute goal from Ju Hyo-sim to beat Vietnam, 1-0. Rank outsiders in the sextet, Vietnam are officially eliminated from going to Rio.

The standings after three match days look like this:
Australia (9 pts, +13)
China (7 pts, +3)
North Korea (5 pts. +1)
South Korea (2 pts, -2)
Japan (1 pts, -3)
Vietnam (0 pts, -12)
At the Algarve Cup, a pair of Canadians made good on their first senior team caps in a 1-0 victory over Belgium. Summer Clarke, 20, scored in the 86th minute and Sabrina D’Angelo made it stand up for a clean sheet making memorable debuts for both players. Clarke scored at the end of an extended sequence in the Belgium area that saw four different attempts to clear fail to get the ball out of the box.

Canada (1-1-0, 3 pts) must beat Iceland by three goals on Monday to win Group A and play in next Wednesday’s final. Iceland beat Denmark, 4-1 on Friday. (Denmark can steal the group if Canada beats Iceland and Denmark beats Belgium by at least five goals—maybe more depending on the Canada score.)

In Group B, Brazil will play Russia on Monday for first place. Brazil need just a draw after defeating Portugal, 3-1 on Friday. Russia played New Zealand to a scoreless draw. See Marta score for Brazil below:

The European qualifying playoff continues Saturday with Norway playing the Netherlands and Sweden battling Switzerland. Sweden and the Netherlands lead the group on three opints in the four-team, single round robin that will produce one qualifier. Germany and France qualified off of their World Cup performance.

The SheBelieves Cup resumes Sunday when the United States plays France and England knocks heads with Germany.


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