|Nahomi Kawasumi of Japan celebrates with her teammates after scoring against Sweden during their Women's World Cup semi-final soccer match in Frankfurt July 13, 2011. (REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach)
FRANKFURT, GERMANY - Japan's storybook journey through the 2011 Women's World Cup continued on Wednesday as Nahomi Kawasumi scored two goals to lead the Nadeshiko to a 3-1 win over Sweden in the semifinals.
Josefine Oqvist put Sweden ahead after 10 minutes, but Kawasumi answered for Japan nine minutes later to level the match.
Inspirational midfielder Homare Sawa put the Japanese in front on the hour mark, and Kawasumi capitalized on a goalkeeping error by Sweden's Hedvig Lindahl a few minutes later to fire home her second goal of the match.
The victory puts Japan in its first-ever World Cup final on Sunday, where they will face the United States, while Sweden will take part in Saturday's third- place match against France, which lost 3-1 to the Americans in Wednesday's other semifinal.
Japan was playing in the semifinals of the Women's World Cup for the first time, and they got off to a shaky start in the 10th minute with Sawa giving the ball away in midfield. This allowed Oqvist to dash past a defender and into the penalty area before firing a left-footed shot inside the far post.
It was a tough way to begin the match, but Japan battled back with Aya Miyama's left-wing cross finding Kawasumi in front of goal. She got a piece of the ball but it also appeared to deflect off the leg of Oqvist and roll between the legs of Lindahl.
Miyama forced the Swedish 'keeper to tip a free kick past the post in the 32nd minute, and Shinobu Ohno struck the crossbar with a long-range shot in the opening minute of the second half as Japan gradually took control of the match.
The go-ahead goal arrived on the hour mark when a ball was played into the area in traffic. Lindahl came off her line to punch it clear, but she didn't make clean contact, allowing Sawa to send a looping header into the empty net.
Lindahl then made another error a few minutes later to seal the win for Japan when she came outside the penalty area to clear a long ball from midfield.
She beat Japan's Kozue Ando to the ball, but her clearance went straight to Kawasumi, who lofted a shot over the head of Lindahl and into the empty net from 35 yards.
Japan will be a decided underdog against the Americans, but having already beaten Germany and Sweden to get to the final, they won't mind taking on that role one more time.