- Associated Press - Saturday, July 9, 2011

WOLFSBURG, GermanyJapan knocked two-time defending champion Germany out of the Women’s World Cup on Saturday, advancing to the semifinals with a 1-0 win when substitute Karina Maruyama outran the defense and scored on an angled shot in extra time.

Japan absorbed relentless pressure during the match, gaining its first World Cup semifinal and handing Germany its first loss in the tournament in a dozen years.

Standout midfielder Homare Sawa spotted Maruyama’s deep run in the 108th minute, served her perfectly and Maruyama slipped it past goalie Nadine Angerer to silence the sellout crowd of 26,067 and an expectant nation.

“I saw her running, I saw the gap in the defense and I gave the assist,” Sawa said.

The 32-year-old’s field vision and precision passing earned her player of the match award.

“I take my hat off to her,” said Germany coach Silvia Neid. “It is her fifth World Cup and she still plays so well.”

Germany threw everything forward in the final dozen minutes, but it didn’t matter. As throughout the tension-filled match, the bounces didn’t go the hosts’ way.

“I am so happy. We all fought together until the end,” Maruyama said. “It was not my success, but that of the whole team.”

Germany’s fear of elimination appeared to douse its creativity and the quarterfinal turned into a test of survival. In the end it was the “Japanese game” that coach Norio Sasaki promised that made the difference — one precision pass and lightness of feet outdid two hours of grinding and pushing by the hosts.

Germany had not lost a World Cup game going back to a quarterfinal defeat to the United States in 1999.

The loss also meant the likely end of the World Cup career of Birgit Prinz, Germany’s best player and the tournament’s all-time leading scorer. After two disappointing games, she was benched for the last group game and again in the quarterfinal. She came off to shake hands.

After the game, the Japanese players united behind a Japanese banner saying, “To our friends around the world — Thank you for your support,” recognizing the global aid in the wake of the deadly earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March.

“Our playing is to be an encouragement for the victims of the disaster,” Sasaki said.

Germany’s tactical plans had already gone awry after four minutes when midfielder Kim Kulig hurt her right knee as she was going for a header that just went over. Neid was counting on Kulig’s ball-winning skills, but instead immediately had to replace her.

“It was a shock for us,” Neid said.

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