Goals from Marta and Beatriz handed Brazil their first win of the 2018 Tournament of Nations as they overpowered a sloppy Japan side in Hartford, Connecticut, by two goals to one. An injury-time diving header from Rika Masuya was too late to change the outcome of the match as the Brazilians held on for a deserved win to inflict a second defeat on Japan, who lost their opener to the United States on Thursday.
The game started at a good pace in the opening five minutes as both sides had half chances after some sloppy play at the back. Yuka Momiki dragged a tame shot wide after an error in Brazil’s backline, while a sloppy pass at the other end picked out Debinha, who forced a save out of Japan keeper, Sakiko Ikeda, after a curling effort from the edge of the box.
Former Bayern Munich forward Mana Iwabuchi should have given Japan the lead on ten minutes when Momiki played a wonderful left-footed effort over the Brazil defense, but the forward could not convert as Aline stood big to make the save.
A quiet spell followed with both sides restricted to long range efforts, as Yuki Yokoyama fired high and wide after 20 minutes, before Brazil’s Joyce clipped the upright with a rasping effort from fully 30 yards just after the half hour mark.
The best two chances of the first period fell in the last ten minutes of the half as Yokoyama crashed a free-kick off the crossbar from 25 yards, before Marta found space in the box at the other end but saw her right-foot shot well saved from Ikeda.
Brazil started the second half the stronger but found it difficult to get past the stubborn Japan defense as sub Adriana and then Beatriz saw efforts well blocked. The latter effort saw a wonderful spin move from Beatriz in the build-up that Marta would have been proud of. Beatriz started to grow into the game and a few minutes later she cut inside from the right onto her left foot, but her drive at goal was straight at Ikeda.
Japan were struggling to impose themselves as the game entered the last half an hour, but while Brazil were registering the majority of the efforts, rarely were they troubling the Japanese.
That was until the 76th minute when another defensive lapse finally saw the breakthrough as Marta capitalised on an error from Sameshima. The Japan captain lost the ball on the edge of her own area, which presented a two-on-one situation. Marta managed to find some space in the box, but still with work to do, was able to fire a shot across Ikeda to the keeper’s left and into the net. It was vintage Marta!
Japan continued to struggle and failed to trouble Aline in the Brazil goal as time ticked away. As a result, they were punished for their sloppy play when in the 90th minute, the impressive Beatriz killed off the game. She received a through ball into the box, cut inside onto her left foot, and placed the ball past Ikeda to all but end the game.
Sub Rika Mayusa did make it a nervy last few minutes after scoring the goal of the game, a diving header from a Moeno Sakaguchi cross, but it was too little too late and was Japan’s only real effort created in the last 20 minutes.
Brazil will now face hosts the United States on Wednesday at Toyota Park, Bridgeview, while Japan finishes off against rivals Australia, who they beat in this year’s Asia Cup final.
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