The four sides left in the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Jordan 2016 have but one objective in mind: to reach the final and keep their title hopes alive. Three of the four already know what it means to go so far. Korea DPR were the tournament’s first winners in 2008 and finished runners-up four years later, while Spain and Japan fought it for the trophy in Costa Rica two years ago, with the Japanese emerging victorious, having lost out in the 2010 final. Only Venezuela have yet to make it to a tournament decider.
Standing in the Venezuelans' way are the North Koreans, while Spain will have the chance to avenge their 2014 final defeat to the Japanese. FIFA.com looks ahead to Monday’s Jordan 2016 semi-finals.
Spain-Japan, King Abdullah II International Stadium, Amman, 19.00 (local time)
Spain have grown tired of just missing out on the big prizes. Finalists at Costa Rica 2014 and the UEFA European Women’s Under-17 Championship, La Rojita gave as good as they got against Japan and Germany respectively on those occasions, though it was not enough for them to make off with the silverware. The Spanish have already exacted a measure of revenge by beating the Germans in the quarter-finals, a notable victory founded on an excellent start, a well-grooved passing game and some stout defending when the time came to preserve their hard-earned lead.
They will need more of the same, much more in all likelihood, if they are to upset the Little Nadeshiko, who have been in irresistible form since the start of the tournament. Comprehensive 3-0 victors over England in the last eight, and 5-0 winners against Ghana and Paraguay in the group phase, the Japanese have also shown character when needed, coming from behind to beat USA 3-2. Having played the same snappy and precise passing game for years now, Japan have become such a cohesive and tight-knit unit that it is virtually impossible to pick out any one player over another, no matter who is on the pitch. To prove the point, coach Naoki Kusunose has used every member of his squad at Jordan 2016, without it affecting the quality of his side’s performances.
Venezuela-Korea DPR, King Abdullah II International Stadium, Amman, 16.00 (local time)
While it might be overstating the case slightly, the other semi-final could boil down to a battle between Deyna Castellanos and Korea DPR's teamwork. Not unlike Japan, the Young Chollima pose a threat all over the pitch and boast an almost telepathic understanding that allows them to carry as much threat down the flanks as they do through the middle. While Ri Hae-Yon is their top scorer with four goals, Sung Hyang-Sim, Kim Jong-Sim, Kim Pom-Ui and Ko Kyung-Hui can also pop up and cause problems.
Venezuela’s chief attacking weapon is a good deal easier to spot. If Castellanos is on top of her game, then anything seems possible for La Vinotinto, which has been the case since their opening-day defeat to Germany. The in-form striker has taken her team to the brink of the final thanks to a series of stunning and decisive goals. Such has been her contribution that the solid work of Nayluisa Caceres between the posts has almost gone unnoticed, as have the sterling contributions of Sandra Luzardo in defence and the vision of Yerliane Moreno in the midfield. Both sides have enough about them to make this semi-final too close and too exciting to call.
Player to watch
Fuka Nagano (JPN)
The 2014 tournament ended with an absorbing final between Japan and Spain, two sides who moved the ball around and entertained more than anyone. Nothing has changed in the two years since then, with both sides still producing football that is very easy on the eye, albeit with different players now, the sole exception being Japan’s Fuka Nagano. The youngest player in that final at the age of only 15, Nagano will be the only survivor from it when the two sides line-up in the semis, an occasion on which she will wear the captain’s armband and will hope to engineer a similar result.
0.5 - the difference in the amount of possession Spain and Japan have enjoyed at Jordan 2016. With 64 per cent, the Europeans just have the edge on their semi-final opponents, who lie second in the tournament rankings with 63.5 per cent, statistics that make it hard to predict who will be chasing the ball more when they meet on Monday.
“I would call the way we play the 'Japanese style', because we all work together as a unit. Our next game against Spain is likely to be a great match, and we’ll be ready to continue defending our title.”
Japan coach Naoki Kusunose.