AFC Youth Player of the Year (Women): Rikako Kobayashi
New Delhi: Japan’s Rikako Kobayashi has been named the AFC Youth Player of the Year (Women) award following an impressive performance at this year’s AFC U-19 Women’s Championship in China.
The 18-year-old Young Nadeshiko was the second leading scorer with four goals at China 2015 and enjoyed a double celebration when the striker was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player as her side won a record-breaking fourth AFC U-19 Women’s Championship with victory over DPR Korea.
Kobayashi (pictured, centre) notched a brace in her side’s 2-0 opening day victory over Australia as Japan demonstrated their tournament credentials with an impressive performance.
And after being rested for the 6-0 win over Uzbekistan in the second round of group matches, Kobayashi returned to drill home her side’s opener into the bottom corner in a 3-2 victory over hosts China that guaranteed they progressed to the semi-finals as winners of Group A.
Kobayashi made her most important contribution in the semi-final against Korea Republic, with the on-form forward securing a deserved 1-0 victory in the final 10 minutes with an accurate finish in off the post as extra time loomed.
She later contributed a goal in their 4-2 penalty shootout win over DPR Korea following goalless regulation-time play, a result that qualified the Japanese as the top of three AFC teams for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2016 in Papua New Guinea.
Kobayashi also helped Japan claim the Fair Play award during the competition’s closing ceremony in Nanjing.