Ruthless Japanese sweep Kiwis aside
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Japan made easy meat of New Zealand to earn a 6-0 victory and a ticket to the quarter-finals at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011. While it was only their second appearance in the knockout phase at the tournament, Japan showed a cool sense of confidence, playing with tremendous pace and urgency. The Samurai Blue came out looking to convince, and while it took 20 minutes to get on the scoreboard, their creativity troubled the Kiwis all night long.

Hidike Ichige was a thorn in New Zealand’s side from the start, with his unpredictable play up front for Japan. The forward earned Japan their just desserts when he stole the ball from Kip Colvey near the right sideline in the 20th minute. Ichige, on the dribble, nearly reached the end line before he fired what appeared to be a cross. The ball looped perfectly over the jumping Scott Basalaj and dipped down inside the far post. The goal was all Japan needed to begin splitting the New Zealand defence apart with their triangular passing game.

Just two minutes later, Fumiya Hayakawa served a perfect cross into the pesky Ichige who was waiting in the area. The striker needed only tap home to make it a double on the day. The Japanese were ruthless, though, and a two-goal lead would not suffice heading into the break.

Ichige was at it again, taking on New Zealand defenders in the area, and although his shot was blocked, Hayakawa caught the deflection to put the Kiwis three behind. And while three goals seemed nearly impossible to come back from, the deficit only became worse. Basalaj blocked an incoming Reo Mochizuki cross-shot from the left side of the area only to see Colvey’s foot catch the deflection and help the ball make its way into the net.

New Zealand were unable to hold onto the ball after the restart and the East Asians never relented on the attack. Demonstrating their work ethic, Japan maintained possession and continued to have chances in the Kiwis’ area. The Young All Whites misery mounted in the 56th minute too, when an unmarked Takumi Minamino tapped in a simple finish after Sei Muroya did some fine overlapping work down the right side to serve up the chance. And though the match was won, Japan decided to match Germany’s six-goal outing at these finals with a composed Hayakawa bagging a brace in the 80th minute after receiving a perfect pass from Hiroki Akino.

Japan will now face Brazil, who beat Ecuador earlier in the day, in the quarter-finals on 3 July in Queretaro, while New Zealand head for home with lessons learned.