Japan, Spain set up final showdown
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THE DAY REPLAYED - Japan and Spain sealed their places in the final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Costa Rica 2014, setting up an Asian-European showdown in the title decider for a second successive tournament. Venezuela and Italy will do battle for the bronze medal in the play-off for third place.

The final will give Spain the chance to exact revenge on Japan for the defeat suffered in their opening Group C fixture, while Venezuela and Italy are also already well acquainted with each other after meeting in Group A.

Results
Venezuela 1-4 Japan
Italy 0-2 Spain

Memorable moments
One run ends, another continues
In the second minute of stoppage time against Venezuela, Japan goalkeeper Mamiko Matsumuto experienced the unfamiliar feeling of conceding a goal. Deyna Castellanos’ close-range finish from Gabriela Rodriguez’s cross to take the score to 4-1 was the first time the Asians’ backline had been breached at the current competition, bringing an end to their record-breaking run at the tournament of going 487 minutes without conceding. It was Castellanos’ sixth strike in Costa Rica, meaning she now tops the scorer’s chart having found the target in each of her country’s matches so far.

Italy’s crossbar challenge
Enrico Sbardella’s charges gave their all against Spain but luck deserted the Italians at crucial moments, with the crossbar twice preventing them from scoring. In the 30th minute Gloria Marinelli unleashed a 30-yard drive that crashed off the bar before flying out of play, while Annamaria Serturini’s long-range strike just after Spain’s first goal also ricocheted off the woodwork. Goalkeeper Elena de Toro was powerless to stop either, having been well beaten on both occasions.

Azzurri pride
Despite coming up short in their semi-final, Italy refused to let themselves be downhearted. The disappointment of losing was clear to see, but there were no tears, with the Azzurrine preferring to celebrate their achievements at the tournament before looking ahead to the play-off for third place. Italy reached the last four at their very first U-17 Women’s World Cup and pride was the overriding emotion come the final whistle.

The stat
1 - Japan have only collected one yellow card en route to the final in Costa Rica. Hikaru Kitagawa’s name went into the book for a late challenge on Venezuela’s Daniuska Rodriguez, earning her the first caution for a Japanese player at an U-17 Women’s World Cup since the 2010 final against Korea Republic. The booking ended the Asians’ run of eight consecutive games without receiving a card of any colour and it was also only the fifth time a Japanese women has been booked at an U-17 tournament, with three of those cards coming in games against Venezuela.

The words
“There’s no doubt Japan are very strong opponents, especially as they’ve only conceded one goal. But we’ll give everything in the final and not even Japan are unbeatable,” Spain coach Jorge Vilda.

Next matchday (all times local)
Friday 4 April 2014, Estadio Nacional, San Jose 

Play-off for third place
Venezuela-Italy, 14:00

Final
Japan-Spain, 17:00