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Semi-final: Japan battle into final

Chonburi: Japan scored twice in the second half to defeat China PR 2-0 to seal a place in the AFC U-16 Women's Championship Thailand 2019 final at the IPE Chonburi Stadium on Wednesday. 

Japan, who have also sealed a place in the 2020 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup India, will play DPR Korea in what promises to be a sizzling final between two of the most exciting teams in the competition on Saturday.

China, who can be proud of their battling performance in the semi-final, will play Australia in the third-place playoff.

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China came into the tie knowing they faced a huge challenge as Japan goalkeeper Nina Noda had not conceded a single goal in her team’s march into the semi-finals.

It was a task made harder by Japan shifting into high pressing mode from the start, forcing China to defend deep.

Japan’s dominance in the opening minutes, however, did not translate into chances as their final passes failed to regularly find intended recipients Momoko Nebu or Hanon Nishio.

The three-time champions’ best chance of the half came in the 27th minute, when several swift one-touch passes led to an unmarked Aemu Oyama facing Luo Yu in the box but the goalkeeper pulled off an impressive save.

Shao Ziqin, who had two goals to her name, was China’s main mode of attack and had she met Wang Humin’s cross in the 30th minute, her side would have taken the lead going into half-time.

Despite playing mostly in their own half, China PR had their chances and a surging Jiang Chenjing sent the ball towards Shao in the 52nd minute but the Japanese backline was quick to cut out the danger.

China should have broken the deadlock six minutes later through Wang Jingyi’s corner kick but Wang Siqian, who was positioned near the upright, was unable to lay the finishing touch from close range.

The missed chances cost China dearly shortly after as Japan finally broke the deadlock in the 68th minute.

A long range cross caught the China defence off guard and as Luo Yu advanced to close out the danger, Nishio lobbed the ball over the ‘keeper and into the gaping goalmouth.

The goal forced China to surge forward in search of the equaliser and they were hit again in the 82nd minute with Oyama feeding the ball to Hamano, who beat Luo Yu from a tight angle to seal Japan's place in the final.

Michihisa Kano: Japan head coach

“We were expecting the game to be tough because we both played aggressively from the start. If was difficult in the first half, but the players were patient and calm, and then we scored the two goals. So, we’re very pleased. In the first half, our timing with our passes wasn’t brilliant, and that’s why we couldn’t go forward. We tried to improve that aspect in the second half, and we scored.”

Chan Yuen Ting: China PR head coach

“We are disappointed with the result, but this is part of football. We generally defended very well, but just made two mistakes, and Japan took two goals from it. They deserved this victory but I’m proud of my players, because they worked very hard to do what we asked of them from the game plan. It’s time for them to concentrate on the next game.”

Photos: AFC

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