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Japan rolls over Mexico to clinch berth in Women's World Cup quarterfinals

SOCCER

Homare Sawa has hat trick in Japan's 4-0 victory. England scores late to eliminate New Zealand, 2-1.

July 01, 2011|By Grahame L. Jones

On a day of mild surprises at the Women's World Cup in Germany, veteran Homare Sawa scored the first hat trick of the tournament Friday as Japan swamped Mexico, 4-0, and New Zealand came within half an hour of upsetting favored England before ultimately losing, 2-1.

Sawa, 32, in her fifth World Cup and long recognized as one of the world's top female players, took full advantage of her teammates' bright passing game and scored in the 13th, 39th and 80th minutes.

Shinobu Ohno scored a goal only two minutes after Sawa's first and that left Mexico in a hole in front of 22,291 in Leverkusen.

"Letting in those two early goals knocked us off our stride and stopped us playing the game we wanted to play," said Mexico Coach Leonardo Cuellar. "Japan is a very technical and skillful side and they had us chasing after the ball a lot."

If Mexico wants to stay alive in the 16-team tournament, it will have to defeat New Zealand by a large margin in its final first-round game and hope Japan can beat England.

Japan Coach Norio Sasaki said his players "were able to express themselves" on Friday and that he was satisfied with the result and with advancing to the final eight, joining already qualified Germany and France in the quarterfinals.

England got off to a rocky start against New Zealand in front of a crowd of 19,110 at Dresden's Rudolf-Harbig Stadium.

The Kiwis withstood some early English pressure and then snatched a surprise goal in the 18th minute when Sarah Gregorius got between two defenders and poked Amber Hearn's cross in from close range.

New Zealand made the lead stand up until the 63rd minute, when England midfielder Jill Scott headed in teammate Alex Scott's cross from the right to make it 1-1.

The match appeared likely to end in a tie, but England grabbed the winner nine minutes from the end when Jessica Clarke scored off a pass from Jill Scott to give England the three points and eliminate the Kiwis, who have lost both their games.

"They really put us on our back foot and we struggled in the first half, but I think we had the most … opportunities," England Coach Hope Powell said. "We are not at our best, I think there is more to come, but hopefully a win will relax us."

The United States, which shut out North Korea in its opener, plays its second game Saturday against Colombia at Sinsheim. A victory would get the Americans to the quarterfinals.

Jones reported from Ross on Wye, England.

grahame.jones@latimes.com

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