Nadeshiko secures spot in World Cup

The Associated Press

Mizuho Sakaguchi, left, celebrates after scoring against Australia in the second half of their Women’s Asian Cup match in Amman on Friday.

By Tetsuya Kazama / Yomiuri Shimbun SportswriterAMMAN — Nadeshiko Japan clinched its eighth straight berth in the FIFA Women’s World Cup on Friday by advancing to the semifinals of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup.

Mizuho Sakaguchi, set up by Yui Hasegawa, scored for Japan in the 63rd minute, and even though Australia grabbed the equalizer late in the match, a 1-1 draw was enough to clinch second place in Group B and secure the ticket to the World Cup.

Japan, Australia and South Korea all finished with five points with one win and two draws, but under tournament regulations, Japan finished second after Australia, giving both teams a semifinal spot and automatic entry to next year’s World Cup in France.

Japan will face China, which finished top in Group A, in the semifinals scheduled for Tuesday, and Australia will play Thailand, the Group A runner-up. The third-placed teams in both groups, South Korea and the Philippines, will face off for the last Asian spot for the World Cup.

Nadeshiko manager Asako Takakura said, “I’m proud we clinched a ticket for the World Cup, even though [Friday’s] match ended in a draw.”

“I felt the development [of the team]. I’d like to congratulate the players,” she added.

Some Nadeshiko players cried after the match, relieved at having secured a berth from Group B — dubbed the “Group of Death” — against tough opponents such as Australia and South Korea.Speech

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