Japan advanced to their first Olympic semi-final in 44 years by beating Egypt 3-0 in the quarter-finals, giving them a chance to improve on the bronze they won in 1968. "We are now in the position to challenge the world," Japan's coach, Takashi Sekizuka, said. "The team is getting stronger and stronger game by game."
The match at Old Trafford in front of more than 70,000 fans was another solid display from the Japanese, who haven't conceded a goal so far. They took the tournament by surprise by beating Spain in the first group stage match, and have carried that momentum on.
Against an Egypt team that was reduced to 10 men before half-time, Japan started the match brightly and took an early lead. Forward Kensuke Nagai scored in the 14th minute after midfielder Hiroshi Kiyotake stripped the ball from a defender near the halfway line, turned and ran down the right before firing in a hard cross just inside the penalty area. Nagai chested the ball down and turned around Egypt goalkeeper Ahmed Elshenawi and defender Saadeldin Saad, who collided trying to deal with the danger and sprawled to the ground. Nagai slotted the ball into an empty net.
For Japan's second, captain Maya Yoshida headed home unmarked in the 78th minute from a free-kick. Their third came in the 83rd with another header, this time from Yuki Otsu, after a cross.
They will travel to Wembley to face Mexico, who beat Senegal 4-2, with extra-time goals from Giovani Dos Santos and Hector Herrera sealing their place in the last four. Dos Santos' free kick set up Jorge Enriquez's 10th-minute goal before a blunder by Senegal led to Javier Aquino making it 2-0 just past the hour mark.
Moussa Konate's tournament-high fifth goal started the rally, but Senegal were undone by awful defending. Ibrahima Balde drew Senegal level, but two defensive errors in extra time handed Mexico the win in front of 81,855 spectators at Wembley Stadium.
The win means that Mexico will at least match their previous best Olympic finish, which was fourth in 1968 – when they lost to Japan in the bronze medal match.
In the women's tournament, Japan will face France in the semi-final tomorrow night, looking to take a step closer to adding Olympic gold to the World Cup title they won last year. A 2-0 victory over Brazil in Cardiff on Friday condemned the the South Americans to their worst Olympic finish ever in a tournament many expected them to win. Olympic debutants France came from a goal behind to beat Sweden at Hampden Park.
In the other semi-final, the favourites United States will face Canada in a repeat of a qualifying match for the tournament, which the US won 4-0. The United States overcame New Zealand in their quarter-final, with goals from the veteran striker Abby Wambach and Sydney Leroux.
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