Slick Japan sink Canucks
© Foto-net

Japan, with a firm focus on technique-driven, free-flowing football, made easy meat of 2002 U-20 runners-up Canada in Santiago on Thursday. Two first half goals brought the three points that the East Asians fully deserved against the hard-working Canadians.

After only six minutes, Hara Natsuko blasted a shot from long range to test Canada's Erin McNulty. The shot came to nothing, though, as the net-minder was equal to the task. Eight minutes later Asano Nagasato tried her luck from 18 yards, but again McNulty was able to push wide in what was a busy opening period.

Canada's best chance came in the 16th minute when Karla Schacher reacted quickest to a goal-mouth scramble, but she somehow managed to steer her shot wide of the post. The Canucks were made to pay for their profligacy on 28 minutes when Micho Goto was set up brilliantly by Kie Koyama and made no mistake pushing the ball into the far corner from close in.

The Japanese continued to press with superior skill and tactics. Five minutes before the interval, Asuna Tanaka doubled the lead. Goto pulled off a piece of astounding wing play out on the left before feeding Tanaka, who had no trouble scoring into an open goal.

After the break, the Japanese had decent chances to increase their lead, but McNulty came to the North Americans' rescue time and again. On 71 minutes, the Canadians then spurned a great chance to get themselves back into the game when Julie Armstrong was unable to get around Japan's keeper in a one-on-one situation.

The Japanese side played it safe to the end, moving the ball around and killing off the result to move, temporarily at least, into top spot in Group C.