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Sawa's hat trick leads Japan into quarterfinals

Jul 1, 2011 - 6:22 PM Leverkusen, Germany (Sports Network) - Homare Sawa has waited 16 years for a second chance to play in the knockout stage of the Women's World Cup, and she made sure Friday to give herself another opportunity.

Sawa, playing in her fifth World Cup, scored a hat trick as Japan beat Mexico, 4-0, at BayArena to seal a berth in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1995.

Although Sawa played all three group games in her first World Cup in 1995, she did not play in Japan's 4-0 quarterfinal loss to the United States. Japan did not make the knockout stage in 1999, 2003 or 2007.

Shinobu Ohno also scored for Japan, which won two matches at the World Cup for the first time in six appearances. The Japanese lead Group B with six points, while Mexico remained alive despite the loss.

"I don't think Mexico showed how strong they are today," Japan coach Norio Sasaki said. "It wasn't our objective to reach the quarterfinals today, but I'm very satisfied."

Japan, which downed New Zealand 2-1 on Monday in its first match, scored twice inside 15 minutes to make quick work of Mexico.

Aya Miyama, who scored the game-winner against New Zealand, set up the opening goal off a free kick from the left. She sent a pass into the middle of the box and Sawa turned a header into the top-right corner in the 13th minute.

Ohno doubled the lead in the 15th when she took a pass from Yuki Nagasato and scored to the upper-right corner from 14 yards.

"Letting those two early goals in knocked us off our stride and stopped us from playing the game we wanted to play," Mexico coach Leonardo Cuellar said.

Sawa and Miyama combined again on the third six minutes before half, this time off another set piece. Miyama drove a corner kick in from the left to the near post, and Sawa ran under the pass and flicked a header inside right post.

Nagasato had a goal erased just before half on a questionable offside call and hit the post early in the second half, but Mexican goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago was not as lucky late in the second half.

The 32-year-old Sawa added her third goal with 10 minutes left to become the oldest player in World Cup history to score a hat trick. Yukari Kinga had the last pass of a long build up and Sawa scored to the lower left from 10 yards.

"This has come as a big surprise because I never imagined scoring a hat trick," Sawa said. "My teammates helped me a lot, though, and a lot of the credit should go to them."

Sawa scored just three goals combined in her previous four World Cups, but she has at least two more games to add a few more in Germany.

Japan wraps up group play against England on Tuesday, when a draw of win will be enough to win the group. Mexico battles New Zealand on Tuesday, and needs a win and a loss by England to have any chance to advance.