There were jubilant scenes after the Japanese women’s football team booked their ticket to the 2023 FIFA World Cup. They emphatically beat Thailand 7-0 in the quarter-finals to proceed into the semi-finals of the AFC Asian Cup. They are two-time defending champions in the tournament and showed their class in this match against a Thailand team that battled bravely but were eventually pounded into submission.

Japan were hot favorites coming into the Asian Cup and duly topped their group. They remained unbeaten during the group stage with two wins and a draw. The already difficult task for Thailand became almost impossible before they even stepped onto the field. Their team was decimated with COVID-19 infections and the lack of depth in their squad was plain to see when the match began.

Japan strike either side of the break

Japan put the Thailand defense under siege from the first whistle and only the heroics of Thailand goalkeeper Waraporn Boonsing kept the game goalless. In the 14th minute, Wilaiporn Boothduang illegally brought down Rin Sumida in the penalty box. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, but Boonsing again thwarted Japan when she saved the penalty from Mana Iwabuchi. Japan could be forgiven for thinking that this was not going to be their day, but all that changed when Yuika Sugasawa’s thunderbolt shot finally beat the Thailand goalkeeper.

Japan continued to attack relentlessly and their positive intent was again rewarded in first-half injury time when they got their second goal through Hinata Miyazawa, who scored after a goalmouth scramble.

Sugasawa nets four

The break could not have come at a better time for the depleted Thailand team. They could consider themselves lucky to go into the break only two goals down, but a third goal within three minutes of the restart broke their spirits. They were visibly fatigued and gave away another penalty in the 64th minute, but this time there was no mistake as Sugasawa rifled home the spot-kick to make it 4-0.

From this point on, the floodgates opened, with Riko Ueki scoring their fifth in the 75th minute. Sugasawa was not finished yet though and completed her hat-trick five minutes later. She added her fourth goal with a header in the 83rd minute to make the final score 7-0.