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Chonburi: Three-time champions Japan sent out an early AFC U-16 Women’s Championship warning, producing a high-quality performance to defeat Australia 5-0 in Chonburi on Monday.

The result sees the 2015 runners-up level on points with Group B rivals and reigning champions DPR Korea, who had earlier defeated Bangladesh 9-0.

Traditionally strong starters at the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship – having won five of their previous six tournament openers – Japan were impressive in continuing the trend against Rae Dower’s Juinor Matildas.

Naoki Kusunose’s side took an early lead through Haruka Osawa, who latched onto Warai Yoshizumi’s pass and coolly sent the ball beyond Australian goalkeeper Annalee Grove after just four minutes.

While Japan created more chances, and came close more than once, a committed Australia worked hard to ensure Osawa’s goal was the extent of the first-half scoring.

But the second period began the same way as the first; with a Japanese goal – this time through a moment of individual quality from Chihiro Tomioka, who struck a superb free-kick from the edge of the penalty area just three minutes after the restart.

It took a combination of Grove and the crossbar to prevent Japan from making it 3-0 moments later, but – as Japan continued to string together passes with aplomb – the inevitable third goal came via Tomoko Tanaka in the 54th minute.

Tanaka, who had entered the fray as a half-time substitute, found herself clean through on goal and calmly bypassed the stranded goalkeeper before stroking the ball into the empty Australian net.

It was a just reward for an outstanding 10-minute period where Japan produced some of the most impressive football of the tournament thus far.

Tanaka put the result beyond doubt in the 71st minute, when she headed home from close range after Australia failed to clear their lines to make it four.

Momoka Kinoshita then put the exclamation mark on a devastating Japanese second-half, taking a touch before thumping the ball into the bottom left-hand corner from 12 metres with six minutes remaining.

Japan also defended diligently, and Australia – who scored more goals than any team in the qualifiers – found scoring chances few and far between.

Having faced the most successful side in the tournament’s history, Australia’s next assignment is the second most successful; a DPR Korea outfit following on from a nine-goal romp against Bangladesh.

Japan will face the South Asians on Thursday, before meeting DPR Korea in a replay of last year’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Final in their final group match.


Naoki Kusunose: Head coach, Japan

“We made more mistakes than expected, but Australia were a very good team and they never gave up. We must improve and I believe we can. I think (the DPR match) is very important, but we need to give our best in every single game, and we will be playing our strongest team against Bangladesh.”

Rae Dower: Head coach, Australia

“Japan’s dominance over the last two decades was pretty evident tonight. They just keep producing another generation. The disappointing thing was the mistakes we made, but that’s the lesson for our girls at this level. At the international stage, if you make those errors the top teams will really hurt you. You know they will make mistakes, and that’s where they will learn and give their best. I told the girls before the game, they’ll remember this for the rest of their lives. Our goalkeeper (Annalee Grove) made some great saves in the first half. I thought young Julia (Vignes) did not stop running, as well as young Kyra (Cooney-Cross).”

Photos: AFC