|Japan's Azusa Iwashimizu is challenged by Germany's Celia Okoyino Da Mbabi during their Women's World Cup quarter-final soccer match. (REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer )
In what will go down as one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Women's World Cup, substitute Karina Maruyama's goal in the 108th minute handed Japan a 1-0 win over two-time defending champion Germany on Saturday in extra time.
Saturday's quarterfinal was viewed as a mere formality prior to kickoff, with host nation Germany installed as a heavy favorite after winning the past two World Cups.
The Germans last loss in the competition came to the United States in the quarterfinals in 1999, but Japan put together an inspired performance to pull off the stunner of the tournament.
"We could have played for another few hours without winning," said Germany coach Silvia Neid. "I am sad we are out of the tournament as I don't think we were the inferior team. However, we didn't score and if you don't score, and you don't pay attention throughout, then you lose the match. We weren't able to score a single goal out of 15 dead-ball situations, which is normally our strength."
Japan, which had never advanced beyond the quarterfinal stage at a Women's World Cup, will now face the winner of Sunday's quarterfinal between Australia and Sweden.
Things went wrong for Germany early on when midfielder Kim Kulig suffered a knee injury in the eighth minute and had to be replaced by Bianca Schmidt.
From there, Japan did a great job of possessing the ball and frustrating Germany into careless mistakes in the final third.
Yuki Nagasato missed a good chance to put Japan in the lead on the half-hour mark when she failed to hit the target from inside the penalty area with an open look at goal.
The German attack was off for most of the match, but it took a clearance off the goal line by Japanese defender Yukari Kinga in the 56th minute to keep the match scoreless as she prevented Simone Laudehr's header from crossing the line.
The final 30 minutes of regulation saw both teams play a very tactical style, but Japan nearly handed Germany the opening goal in extra time.
A turnover gave the ball to Inka Grings inside the penalty area, and with just goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori to beat from 14 yards, she curled her shot wide of the far post.
Japan had been looking to hit on the counter for much of the match and the chance finally arrived in the 108th minute as Homare Sawa played a well- weighted chip into the area on the right behind the German defense.
Maruyama tracked it down and drove a shot across the face of goal and inside the post, handing Japan a stunning lead.
Germany nearly equalized one minute later when a powerful shot from Melanie Behringer was tipped over the crossbar by Kaihori, but the Japanese held out for the final 10 minutes, with the final whistle setting off some emotional scenes inside the stadium.
"At some point my ambition was to win against Germany and play on such a stage. I am so happy," said Sawa. "The Germans were under pressure, they had to win. That was an advantage for us and that made things easier for us. We have never won against Germany and to do that at the World Cup makes me so happy. I cried because of all the emotions at the final whistle."