Japan scored its 14th goal of the Women’s World Cup and conceded its first Saturday, beating Norway 3-1 to reach the quarterfinals for the fourth time.
Hinata Miyazawa sealed the win with her fifth goal of the tournament in the 81st minute to remain the leading scorer. Risa Shimizu’s 50th-minute goal followed an Ingrid Syrstad Engen own goal in the first half to help give Japan its fourth straight win of the tournament.
With five goals the 23-year-old Miyazawa equals the record for a Japan player at a World Cup. Homare Sawa scored five in 2011 when Japan won the tournament. She won the Golden Boot that year.
This Japan team already has scored more goals than the 2011 team.
Guro Reiten headed a superb goal for Norway in the 21st minute to end Japan’s flawless defensive performance and leave the teams locked 1-1 a halftime.
After beating Spain 4-0 with only 23% of possession in its group-stage finale, Japan once again was a tactical chameleon in the round of 16 — playing with more than 60% of possession in a commanding performance.
Japan traded its regular blue uniform for pastel colours Saturday, pink and purple. The softer colour scheme did nothing to dull its attacking style; it pressed forward from the start and had its first corner after two minutes.
“We knew Norway were going to play to their strength but all of our players really worked hard,” Japan coach Futoshi Ikeda said. “We made several adjustments in the second half and it was great that they led to the goals and the win.
“Whether we are No 1, we will find out if we continue winning. We will find out at the end.”
While it was ineffective, it was an early declaration of intent. With long balls or sharp, quick passing, Japan continually pressed forward and Norway, which conceded only one goal in group play, often seemed rattled at the back.
When the defence finally yielded, it was in unusual circumstances. In the 15th minute, Miyazawa curled the ball in from depth on the left and Engen extended her leg to parry the ball. She managed only to deflect it wide of Aurora Mikalsen in goal for the eighth own goal of the tournament.
Japan seemed well on top but in the 21st minute, and from the first time in the match Norway had threatened, Vilda Boe Rise got away on the right, took the ball to the byline and crossed to the middle where Guro Reiten stood tall and headed wide of the diving Ayaka Yamashita into the left corner.
The goal came entirely against the run of play. After a half-hour, Japan had 183 completed passes to Norway’s 88, had more than 60%, five shots on goal. Miyazawa, Aoba Fujino, Jun Endo and others had been threatening.
Shimizu’s winner came in the 50th minute as Japan pushed forward again from halfway. Miyazawa tried to hold up the ball near goal, lost possession to Boe Risa, who tried a back pass but rolled the ball into the path of Shimizu rushing in from the right to score.
“There is still a long way to go but after we felt frustrated in 2019, I feel like we’ve overcome an obstacle,” Shimizu said. “We’ll head to the next one, but I feel we got a really great victory today.
“Among us, there were only positive words. Even when it became 1-1, no one has a negative mood. We could play in a very positive way.”
Miyazawa produced a copybook finish in the 81st, running onto a superb through ball and directing her shot wide of Mikalsen.
Norway and Japan had met only once before at a World Cup, in 1999, when Norway won 4-0. Current Norway coach Hege Riise scored one goal in that match. On Saturday, Riise watched and admired the new Japan team and the quality of its attacking play.
“’I’ve seen them play in the group stage and they are a great team with a lot of good players and tactics,” Riise said. “The plan was for us to be strong in defence and not let them play too much into us.
“But they did well. We played solid defense sometimes but not quite good enough. Regardless of who and how to play in the back five, I would say Japan was stronger than us.”
Former Ballon d’Or-winner Ada Hegerberg started on the bench for Norway and was introduced late, indicating her fitness still may not have been up to scratch.”
Japan now will play the winner of Sweden and the United States.