The Day Replayed – Japan claimed their maiden FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup crown, and few could deny that the Little Nadeshiko were deserving victors. Japan won all seven matches at Costa Rica 2014 displaying classic Nadeshiko élan and poise throughout. They also dominated goalscoring opportunities in the final but after Meika Nishida’s fifth minute goal, it took until 12 minutes from full time before the contest was effectively ended thanks to Fuka Kono’s strike.
With Venezuela and Italy both breaking new ground by reaching the last four, a new high was assured regardless of the outcome of the match for third place. And it was an enthralling up-tempo contest that ensued with Venezuela equalising four times, the last of which came with virtually the last kick of the game. La Vinotinto’s scoring boots were, however, not laced up in the shoot-out with two shots hitting the frame of the goal and two saved by Italy goalkeeper Francesca Durante.
Honour in victory and defeat
Women’s football is renowned for its adherence to Fair Play principles and that mentality was again on display both during and after the final. Japan formed a tunnel for Spain to walk through as they made their way to the presentation podium, with the gesture also reversed between the two teams.
Venezuela’s pain eased
Venezuela were impressive throughout the tournament in attack, notably with dynamic forwards Gabriela Garcia and Deyna Castellanos among the tournament’s most impressive front-runners. Despite showing remarkable resilience in coming from behind four times against Italy, it seems La Vinotinto ran out of luck in the penalty shoot-out, scoring none from four attempts despite a lengthy practise session the day before the final. Some smiles returned though with the players receiving a rapturous welcome from a large Venezuela contingent when they took their spot in the tribune to watch the final.
Asia’s dominance continues
Asia’s quality at youth level was yet again underlined as Japan became the third nation from that continent to win the crown in four attempts, following in the footsteps of Korea Republic and Korea DPR. Japan and Korea DPR have also been runners-up on two occasions. The result in the Costa Rica 2014 final also means European teams have failed to earn a win over Asian opposition over the past seven matches dating back to Spain’s victory against Korea DPR in 2010
Costa Rica’s celebration
This tournament will primarily be remembered for Japan’s triumph, but so too the hospitality and sense of achievement from the host will be a lasting legacy. Though Costa Rica were eliminated in the group stage without a point, the tournament has been a breakthrough achievement for women’s football in the Central American, nation with record crowds and widespread general interest. The Costa Rica side enjoyed another moment in the sun with Las Ticas earning a rapturous reception as they did a lap of honour earlier in the evening displaying a banner which read ‘Gracias Costa Rica por el apoyo!’ (Thank you Costa Rica for your support).
284,320 – A record number of supporters attended matches at Costa Rica 2014 at an average of 8,885 surpassing the previous mark set at Azerbaijan 2012.
"I was told I was the first Japanese female coach for a national team. I think I would like to be a role-model for other females to become coaches not because I am a woman, but because I give my heart and soul to my players to put into them all what I have and make them better players. My wish is to be only a small part towards the development of women’s football in the future.”
Asako Takemoto Takakura, Japan coach