Japan secured third place at the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup with a dominant display against USA, though it took a lone Mami Ueno goal three minutes from full time to secure the victory.
Japan quickly settled into their rhythm increasing their grip on possession as the first half wore on, which at one stage reached a massive 67 per cent.
Captain Yuka Momiki and fellow forward Yui Hasegawa were in sparkling form and their combination play was a highlight, though Japan invariably found themselves facing a packed defence in and around the penalty area.
It took 20 minutes for the first opportunity as Momiki released a delightful short pass for Rin Sumida, but her shot from an angle was well-saved by Casey Murphy.
Japan ramped up the pressure in the dying minutes of the half, with Hasegawa forcing Murphy into a sharp save.
Then it was dynamic midfielder Hina Sugita who showed her style with a stylish dribble past a few defenders only for her shot to be deflected wide. Momiki then fired on goal, with her shot also deflected but needing a save from Murphy.
USA finally has some brief moments of joy in attack after the interval, with several counter-attacks offering promise.
Japan top-scorer Ueno, who came on at half-time, struck a fierce shot into the side-netting as Japan edged closer. Momiki then clipped the crossbar with a well-worked short corner as Japan continued to do everything but score.
However, USA’s hopes increased the longer the match went scoreless, and Jessie Scarpa bundled a header onto the roof of the net.
Momiki, needing just one goal to move top in the adidas Golden Boot race, found a yard of space in the penalty area but pushed her shot wide with ten minutes remaining.
The No18 finally delivered with three minutes remaining as her spectacular looped effort drifted inside the far post from a 45 degree angle.
Live Your Goals Player of the Match: Hina Sugita (Japan)