Semi-final: Japan show their class
Chonburi: Japan beat Australia 7-0 on Wednesday to reach the AFC U-19 Women’s Championship Thailand 2019 final where DPR Korea now await Futoshi Ikeda’s charges as they seek to secure the nation’s sixth Continental crown.
A dominant display from start to finish saw Japan emerge victorious from a game which also guaranteed them a place at next year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup as they seek to defend the global title they claimed in 2018.
Despite their defeat, Australia, who were playing without suspended captain Karly Roestbakken, will have another chance to claim a World Cup berth when they face Korea Republic in a match that will decide Asia’s third representative in Nigeria.
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Having won all three of their group stage matches to top Group B in style, Japan were quickly into their stride at the Chonburi Stadium, although the competition’s reigning champions were forced to wait until the 10th minute for their genuine attempt on goal, Sara Ito flashing a shot narrowly wide of the far post.
With Australia defending in numbers, Japan continued to press and they came close to making the breakthrough when midfielder Oto Kanno thumped a powerful shot from range against the bar on 16 minutes.
Their patience was, however, to pay handsome dividends shortly after as Kanno calmly converted a penalty after the rampaging Shino Matsuda had been hauled down in the area by Indiah-Paige Riley.
One was to become two for Japan just moments later, this time Haruka Osawa expertly diverting Momo Nakao’s curling cross past goalkeeper Annalee Grove.
Nakao’s fierce drive then brought a fine save out of Grove, before, and with half-time approaching, the Australian custodian was on hand once again to repel Osawa’s drilled effort.
Within three minutes of the restart Japan added a third, Osawa latching onto Nakao’s superb chipped pass and rolling the ball past Grove’s despairing dive.
Yuzuki Yamamoto duly notched a fourth for Japan shortly after courtesy of a fine curling effort, while Ito headed home her side’s fifth on 52 minutes following Yamamoto’s pinpoint cross.
As Australia struggled to vacate their own half, Japan’s relentless forays continued with Ito blazing over the bar from close range and substitute Maho Hirosawa being denied by Grove’s superb one-handed stop.
Misaki Morita then rapped the Australian bar from distance, only for Hirosawa to round off the scoring with two further goals on a night when Japan reigned supreme.
Futoshi Ikeda: Japan head coach
“I am delighted that we are through to the final [of the AFC U-19 Women’s Championship] and that we have qualified for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. We played very well up until the final minute. The players could well have been under pressure given this was a semi-final but they successfully changed that pressure into motivation. We weren’t entirely happy about only being 2-0 up at half-time so we ensured that we created more goalscoring chances after the break.”
Leah Blayney: Australia head coach
“Credit where credit is due, it was an excellent performance by Japan. We knew going into the game that we were playing a world champion team and that it was always going to be a tough challenge. Early on, in the first 20 to 25 minutes, I thought we were in a good position until we conceded a penalty and two goals in quick succession. Obviously there is another game left for us in order to qualify for a FIFA World Cup which we will be looking forward to.”
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