Seventh heaven for Japan
© Foto-net

Japan today produced the outstanding performance of New Zealand 2008 thus far to beat France 7-1, qualifying for the last eight with a breathtaking display of pure, inventive football.

A quick-fire hat-trick from Chinatsu Kira, the fastest-ever in a FIFA women's competition, was the highlight of a thrilling 7-1 win that could have been even more emphatic but for a heroic display from French keeper Laetitia Philippe.

The warning signs had been there even before Yuiko Inoue converted a defence-splitting pass from Chiaki Shimada in 10 minutes and although Marine Augis quickly - and briefly - restored parity, the mercurial Mana Iwabuchi won a penalty from which captain Natsui Kishikawa re-established the cushion on 20 minutes.

Throughout an exhilarating match, Japan were a joy to watch and, with Iwabuchi conducting the orchestra, it wasn't long before they extended their lead, Kira grabbing the first of her treble from close range. Within a minute, the Young Nadeshiko had served up another sumptuous goal, with Yuiko Inoue tormenting her marker before crossing for Kira to head home from four yards.

Kira's record-breaking eight-minute hat-trick wasn't long in arriving, and on 38 minutes the Asians struck again, a sublime back-heel from Iwabuchi playing in Chiaki Shimada for a brilliantly-executed sixth.

More remarkable than the scoreline was that it could have been even more lop-sided, and it certainly didn't flatter Hiroshi Yoshida's scintillating side when skipper Kishikawa rounded off the scoring with her second and Japan's seventh, heading home a superbly weighted free-kick from Chiaki Shimada.