Holders Japan have beaten England 3-0 to reach the last four of the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, where they will face Spain in a rematch of the 2014 edition's final. Riko Ueki grabbed a brace to add to Jun Endo's early opener at Irbid's Al Hassan International Stadium as the Little Nadeshiko maintained their 100 per cent record at Jordan 2016.
The reigning champions, classy and accomplished, were worthy winners and always looked on course for victory from the moment they took a third-minute lead. That was when England's pre-match gameplan was left in tatters as Endo poked the ball home from close range, reacting quickest after Fuka Nagano's initial effort had been blocked.
The English struggled throughout against the speed and movement of their Asian rivals, and Japan could have been three up inside the opening 15 minutes but for wayward finishing from both Nagano and Saori Takarada. John Griffiths' Young Lionesses did improve as the first half wore on, though, and it was against the run of play when the holders doubled their advantage in stoppage time.
Japan have shown time and again that they are never more dangerous than when an opponent's attack breaks down, and it was a lethal counter-attack that broke England hearts. Hinata Miyazawa provided the assist with a perfectly weighted through ball and Ueki, having sprung the offside trap, was able to take her time before planting a shot high beyond the helpless Ellie Roebuck.
England never looked likely to recover from that crushing blow, and they very nearly fell further behind six minutes into the second half when a ferocious Miyazawa shot rebounded on to the line off the underside of the bar. The closest we came to seeing a goal at the other end, meanwhile, was when Alessia Russo forced a fine save from Momoko Tanaka, with a stretching and off-balance Ellie Brazil agonisingly close to converting the rebound.
Japan ran out comfortable winners though, and even had time to add a spectacular third when Ueki ran unchallenged from the halfway line before unleashing an unstoppable shot into the top-right corner. The Little Nadeshiko can now look forward to a mouthwatering reunion with the team they beat two years ago in Costa Rica to win this trophy for the first time.
Live Your Goals Player of the Match: Riko Ueki (JPN)