SHANGHAI (AFP) - Striker Yuki Nagasato scored an injury time winner to keep Japan in the women's World Cup on Friday and shatter any hopes South American champions Argentina had of reaching the knockout rounds.
Japan won 1-0 after being held to a goalless stalemate for 90 minutes of regulation time against the weakest team in Group A, who were hammered by a World Cup record 11-0 in their opening game against Germany.
The Japanese needed to win to stay in contention for a place in the next round after they drew 2-2 with England in their opener.
A late goal gave Japan a share of the spoils then, when Aya Miyamo stepped up to score a free-kick with the last kick of the game, and it was a similar scenario here Friday.
Argentina made four changes, including a replacement goalkeeper, and were a much improved side until the final stages when Japan moved up a gear.
The pressure resulted in a breakthrough when defender Yukari Kinga, a second-half substitute, found Nagasato in front of goal with the clock ticking down.
The 20-year-old striker made no mistake, slamming the ball past Argentine keeper Romino Ferro in the 91st minute.
"We had a hard time trying to score in the first half but I think the players played really well after the break," said Japan coach Hiroshi Ohashi.
Even so, with Germany and England battling for group honours, the win may not be enough for Japan, who meet the Germans in their last game on Monday.
Whether they survive the group could hinge on goal difference with England but coach Ohashi said he preferred to count on a victory over Germany.
"Winning three points is more important than goal difference," he said. "Winning the next game against Germany is what we are focussing on."
Japan had most of the possession and most of the action in front of goal in both halves but were dangerously exposed at the back when their defense pushed too far forward.
Argentina almost went ahead in the 73rd minute when Fabiana Vallejos spotted the Japanese goalkeeper off her line and fired in a lofted shot from 40 metres.
Miho Fukumoto failed to collect the ball which bounced off the left post.
Argentina had earlier brought on two strikers as second half substitutes as they fought desperately to stay in the tournament.
"Today we suffered another painful loss," said coach Jose Borrello.
"But the players game 100 percent and compared to the last match it was better."
But another defeat after their drubbing by Germany means that they are almost certain of an early exit from the tournament.
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