Japanese bounce back in style

Japan revived their tournament hopes in stylish fashion with a sparkling performance to overwhelm Venezuela 6-0 at Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. The East Asians had suffered a heavy 4-1 loss against Spain three days ago, while Venezuela defeated New Zealand 2-1. The result of this contest was never in doubt as the Young Nadeshiko raced to a three goal half-time lead with Mai Kyokawa scoring a hat-trick including a first-half double.

Japan displayed a fast, technical style throughout the contest and appeared far more confident than in their first outing. The Asian side showed their intent inside the opening two minutes with Haruna Kawashima shooting on goal. Kyokawa soon opened the scoring, displaying great movement on the left before firing home off the crossbar. Venezuela enjoyed a rare opening in attack after an error from Japan goalkeeper Eri Hirao, but Paola Villamizar was unable find the net.

Chika Kato, Kyokawa and Kawashima were a constant danger in attack with a mix of dynamic pace and aggression. However it was Yoko Tanaka who scored the second with a shot from 35 metres just prior to the half-hour mark. Soon after Kyokawa made it three from the penalty spot.

Despite the prospect of a rout, Venezuela to their credit had their best period just prior to the interval with Marialba Zambrano hitting a free-kick against the crossbar. A minute prior to the break, Vinotinto goalkeeper Maleike Pacheco showed her skills by making a host of saves in quick succession, while Kato also found time to hit the post.

After the break, Venezuela forward Ysaura Viso had a good chance on a counter-attack alone in front of the goalkeeper, but Hirao won the duel. Then Kyokawa again hit the frame of the goal as Japan continued the onslaught. It was little surprise when Japan got their fourth and Kyokawa her third, as Hikaru Naomoto crossed for the impressive Young Nadeshiko striker to convert.

Midway through the half Kumi Yokoyama put away the fifth after receiving a long ball on the left wing before finishing past the exposed Pacheco. Japan were not done yet and Hikari Nagashima aptly completed their attacking floorshow with a remarkable free-kick from around 40 metres that nestled in the corner of the net.

Japan will play for a quarter-finals berth against New Zealand, who themselves still harbour outside hopes of qualification, on Monday in Scarborough, while Venezuela face group-leaders Spain in Marabella.