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Japan lose to US despite Iwabuchi strike

Frisco: Olympic hosts Japan completed a forgettable SheBelieves Cup campaign, falling to a 3-1 defeat against FIFA Women’s World Cup holders the United States to finish the tournament without a point on Wednesday.

Asako Takakura’s side had more possession and more shots at goal, but the Americans sealed the title at the round-robin event thanks to goals from Megan Rapinoe, Christen Press and Lindsday Horan.

For the second time in the tournament, Japan found the net through mercurial forward Mana Iwabuchi, who reduced the margin to 2-1 in the 58th minute, but the Asian champions were unable to salvage a positive result.

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Coming into the match following defeats to both Spain and England, Japan fell behind within seven minutes as World Cup Golden Ball-winner Rapinoe slammed an excellent 25-yard free-kick beyond Ayaka Yamashita.

It was Yamashita’s error which provided the opportunity for the second goal, as the Japanese goalkeeper’s pass inexplicably went straight to Rapinoe, who in turn found Press, with the 31-year-old seizing on the opportunity by expertly chipping the ball into the net from 20 yards.

Staring at the barrel of a third successive defeat, Japan introduced Iwabuchi at half-time, and she made a near-instant impact when she carefully steered home her second goal of the tournament after being supplied by an Emi Nakajima pass just before the hour mark.

Iwabuchi’s goal was part of a period of growing Japanese comfort, but any hopes of a late recovery were quashed by Horan’s goal seven minutes from time, with the Portland Thorns midfielder rising high to head home from a corner kick.

Japan’s three defeats in the SheBelieves Cup put an abrupt end to the momentum they had previously built from five successive international wins following last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The Nadeshiko are scheduled to meet New Zealand in a friendly next month, before their Olympic campaign begins in late July.

In Wednesday’s other match, Spain defeated England 1-0 to finish the four-team competition in second place.

Photos: AFP

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