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FOOTBALL

Japan beat USA to win World Cup on penalties

Japan won the women's World Cup for the first time on Sunday, beating the United States in a penalty shoot-out after the final had finished 2-2 in extra-time.

Japan beat USA to win World Cup on penalties
Photo: DPA

Japan captain Homare Sawa, who won the tournament’s golden boot, kept her side in the game with a header in the 117th minute after US striker Abby Wambach’s had put her side ahead early in extra-time after the two sides were locked at 1-1 over 90 minutes.

“I cannot believe this,” said 32-year-old Sawa, who was playing at her fifth World Cup.

“We never gave up and played until the last minute, I just kept running until the last moment. We have given all we had.”

In the dramatic shoot-out, Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori saved two penalties before defender Saki Kumagai hit the winning spot-kick.

The US had taken the lead in the second-half of normal time thanks to striker Alex Morgan’s sublime strike, but Japan’s Aya Miyama poached the equaliser after a mix-up in the American defence in the 81st minute.

This was Japan’s first win over the Americans at the 26th time of trying and was heartbreak for the Stars and Stripes as they missed out on a third World Cup title despite dominating Japan for large periods of the game.

“We made just a couple of mistakes. We let them back in the game but I still think we did well,” said USA coach Pia Sundhage.

“We had a lot of possession and played some good soccer. It’s hard to lose on penalties, some go in and some go out. It’s a small difference between winning and losing. We just didn’t take our chances.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel celebrated her 57th birthday by joining the 48,817 sell-out crowd in Frankfurt, while Dr Jill Biden, wife of US Vice President Joe Biden, and Chelsea Clinton, daughter of US Secretary of State Hillary, were also in the stands.

Japan made it to final after their shock 1-0 defeat of Germany in the quarter-finals before they dominated Sweden 3-1 in the last four.

The USA followed up a dramatic 5-3 win on penalties over Brazil in the last eight before they beat France 3-1 in the semi-finals.

The USA controlled the opening 20 minutes of the final as left-wing Megan Rapinhoe and forward Lauren Cheney, who replaced striker Amy Rodriguez in the starting team, caused havoc, while Wambach hit the crossbar on 28 minutes.

Japan’s first real chance came with 30 minutes gone but midfielder Kozue Ando fired her shot straight at US goalkeeper Hope Solo.

The first-half finished goalless, but Cheney, with a heavily strapped ankle, was replaced at half-time by goal-scorer Morgan.

The USA kept up the pressure and Kaihori palmed Wambach’s header over the bar on 64 minutes.

The Americans’ pressure finally told when Rapinhoe’s long-range pass – which was half the length of the pitch – found Morgan who blasted her shot across Kaihori on 69 minutes.

Japan were gifted the equaliser on 81 minutes when US defenders Rachel Buehler and Krieger scrambled to clear the ball in their own goalmouth, but left-wing Miyama reacted fastest and stabbed the ball home.

In extra-time, Wambach headed the US back into the lead in the 104th minute.

But Sawa equalised from a corner in the 117th minute with her fifth goal of the tournament to take the game to penalties.

The Japanese had defender Azusa Iwashimizu sent off in the 121st minute for a foul on US striker Alex Morgan.

After the devastating earthquake and tsunami which killed tens of thousands in northeast Japan on March 11, coach Norio Sasaki said messages of support from back home had played their part in victory.

“We had lots of support and messages from Japan and that was one of the keys for success,” he said.

AFP/mry

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FOOTBALL

British football teams allowed to skip Germany’s quarantine for Euro 2020

Germany's government announced on Tuesday it will allow England, Scotland and Wales to enter the country without quarantine to play at Euro 2020 despite a recent rise in cases linked to the Delta variant of Covid-19 in Britain.

British football teams allowed to skip Germany's quarantine for Euro 2020
One of the venues for Euro 2020 is in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

The three teams could potentially reach the quarter-final held in Munich on July 2nd.

If that were the case, they would be exempt from the rule that travellers from the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland must currently observe a 14-day isolation period due to the virus strain of concern – Delta – first identified in India.

“The people accredited for the European football Championship are exempt from the quarantine obligation, even after arriving from an area impacted by a variant” Berlin said in a statement.

“This exemption concerns all the people who have been accredited by the organising committee for the preparation, participation, the holding and the follow-up of international sporting events,” it added.

The exemption does not include fans, who will be obliged to follow German government self-isolation rules.

Germany declared the UK a ‘virus variant area of concern’ on May 23rd due to rising cases linked to the Delta variant in parts of the country. 

READ ALSO: Germany makes UK ‘virus variant area of concern’: How does it affect you?

This reclassification came just seven days after the UK was put back on Germany’s list at the lowest risk level, and barely a month after it was taken off all risk lists completely.

The ban was put in place despite the UK’s relatively low Covid rates as a precautionary measure.

A general ban on entry is in place for people coming from countries on the ‘virus variant’ list – such as India and Brazil – the highest of Germany’s risk categories. 

There are some exceptions for entering from these countries – for example German residents and citizens. However, anyone who does enter from Germany is required to submit a Covid-19 test before boarding the flight and must quarantine for 14 days on arrival, regardless of whether they are fully vaccinated or not.

READ ALSO: Germany’s new relaxed quarantine and testing rules after travel

Euro 2020 starts on Friday as Italy host Turkey in Rome with the Bavarian city hosting three group games as well as the last-eight match.

Around 14,000 fans will be allowed into the Allianz Arena for the fixtures.

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