Two goals to substitute Nahomi Kawasumi and a third to Homare Sawa lifted Japan to a comfortable win over the Swedes, who had taken an early lead when Josefin Oqvist slotted through a 10th minute shot following Sawa’s defensive error.
Japan will go into the final against the United States — which defeated France 3-1 in the other semifinal — as a massive underdog, having never beaten the Americans before.
But the team can take heart through their wins over the Swedes, who defeated the U.S. in group play and host Germany, an almost unbackable favorite in their quarter final.
Japan, carrying a glimmer of hope to a nation still caught in the gloom of the March 11 disasters that ravaged much of the Tohoku region in northern Japan, is not daunted by the prospect of taking on the Americans.
“Our goal has always been to reach the top,” Japan manager Noriko Sasaki told reporters after the game. “We’ve been waiting for the United States and want to give it all we’ve got.”
Sawa, whose goal was her fourth for the tournament and made her co-leading scorer along with Brazil’s Marta, also can’t wait to take on the world’s No.1-ranked team and current Olympic champion.
“Playing the United States was my goal, so this is like a dream,” said the veteran 32-year-old striker, who has had two stints playing professional soccer in the U.S.
Nadeshiko Japan – the nickname comes from the Japanese word used to describe traditional qualities of beauty and dignity in women – became the best-performed senior team in Asian soccer history simply by making it to the final of the World Cup. South Korea’s men made it to the World Cup semifinal in 2002, when it co-hosted the tournament with Japan. The best World Cup performance by the Japanese men’s team has been to twice make it to the Round of 16, as co-host in 2002, and again last year, when it was knocked out by Paraguay on penalties.