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England and Japan share spoils in dramatic women´s World Cup tie

11 September 2007 16:25

SHANGHAI (AFP) - Midfielder Kelly Smith scored two late goals for England here on Tuesday but Japan fired back with an equaliser five seconds from time to scrape a 2-2 draw in a dramatic World Cup Group A tie.

The 28-year-old brought her goal tally to 23 in 62 games for England with spectacular strikes in the 81st and 83 minutes to put the side ahead 2-1.

Then Aya Miyama, the Japanese midfielder, stepped up with the seconds ticking down to smash a free-kick into the top left corner from 30 metres past the outstretched arms of Rachel Brown in the England goal.

Miyama had already scored for Japan with a similar free-kick from some 25 metres to put Japan 1-0 up after 55 minutes.

"Obviously we are devastated," said Smith. "We came away with just one point but in my heart I think we deserved three."

Teams are awarded one point for a draw and three for a win and the top two from each of the four groups of four teams go through to the quarter-finals.

The outcome of the match was crucial to deciding who would progress from Group A alongside favourites Germany, who beat Argentina 11-0 on Monday.

But the 2-2 draw means that the group is still wide open and either Japan or England can stil hope to reach the quarter-finals.

England coach Hope Powell said she was pleased her team were still in with a chance after trailing Japan for 80 minutes.

"Had we come off after 90 minutes without a point we could have been disappointed," she said.

"But we came back from a goal down and we are still in it."

Japan play Argentina and England play Germany, the world number two, in their next match on Friday.

But for a long stretch of Tuesday's match it looked like Japan, ranked 10th in the world to England's 12th, would clinch it after Miyama scored against the run of play.

England, appearing in the second women's World Cup finals, fought back hard but were denied by wayward finishing and a solid defense.

That was until Smith, England's playmaker, hit the spot with a left-footed strike just nine minutes from time. She took off her left boot and kissed it in celebration.

Three minutes later she took off the other boot and kissed that too after scoring with that right foot by hitting home a rebound off Japanese goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto's body.

"I was smiling inside," she said. "I thought we were going to get all three poins. But now I am gutted for the whole team."

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