Japan cruise to maiden world title

Japan defeated Spain 3-1 to win their first-ever FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup crown in Vannes on Friday evening. The result sees the trophy remain in Asia after Korea DPR won the title two years ago in Papua New Guinea.

The first half at the Stade de la Rabine was largely dominated by the European U-19 champions in terms of possession and goalscoring opportunities, yet it was the Japanese who found the scoresheet first.

Goalkeeper Hannah Stambaugh had made several important saves for the Young Nadeshiko during the tournament. And she was on hand again to deny Patri Guijarro in the early stages, before brilliantly denying Maite Oroz finding the top corner and then Eva Navarro.

Despite being on the back foot for most of the half, Japan stunned La Rojita by taking the lead against the run of play on 38 minutes. Having shown a desire to shoot from distance, as she did in hitting the crossbar against England in the semi-final, Hinata Miyazawa found the target this time with her right foot, leaving the outstretched Catalina Coll with little chance to make the save.

Taking the lead inspired the East Asians to push forward, and only a fine point-blank save from Coll denied the Japanese a second goal before the break through Jun Endo.

When the chances have come for Futoshi Ikeda’s side, they have been highly efficient in taking them in the knockout stages of France 2018, and with a bit of quality as well. On 57 minutes, Saori Takarada doubled Japan’s lead with an assured finish after being released in on goal by a neat Riko Ueki flicked pass.

Having claimed control of the contest on the scoreboard, the Japanese were now looking fluid and confident, and that was evident in their third goal on 65 minutes. This time Takarada turned supplier for Fuka Nagano on the right of the Spain box, and the latter's superb first-time shot flew over Coll and into the net.

There was a reply from Pedro Lopez’s side, however. Candela Andujar pulled a goal back on 71 minutes for Spain, and the comeback could have found further momentum two minutes later had Stambaugh not been able to tip Claudia Pina’s shot on to the crossbar.

That was as far as the Spanish comeback efforts would reach, as Japan added to last year’s Asian U-19 title with a maiden world crown in this age category.

The victory also meant Japan became the first nation to win the treble of FIFA Women's World Cup™ (2011), U-20 Women's World Cup and FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup (2014).

“Dare To Shine” Player of the Match: Saori Takarada (JPN)