Brilliant Japan power to title
Vannes: Japan lifted the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup for the first time with a stunning 3-1 win over Spain at Stade de la Rabine on Friday.
Futosh Ikeda's side withstood an early surge, but goals to Hinata Miyazawa, Saori Takarda and Fuka Nagano gave them a 3-0 lead from which Spain were unable to recover, despite Candela Andujar's goal.
The historic win makes Japan the first country to complete the trifecta of Women's World Cups at senior, U-20 and U-17 levels, and the first new name of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup trophy since DPR Korea in 2006.
🇯🇵 Congratulations Japan! 🙌— #U20WWC 🇫🇷⛵ (@FIFAWWC) August 24, 2018
You are U-20 women’s world champions 2018! 🥇🏆 pic.twitter.com/YkuyxQ7mxF
With 11 goals in their previous three matches, the Young Nadeshiko came into the decider in red-hot form, but Spain had prevailed when the teams met in the group stage and Pedro Lopez's side began the stronger.
Spain's near-continuous first-half ascendancy began with Japanese goalkeeper Hannah Stambaugh's hesitancy to claim a fourth-minute cross resulting in a follow-up effort from six-goal forward Patricia Guijarro, which Stambaugh recovered in time to deflect wide.
Ten minutes later Guijarro had a better chance, but she couldn't keep her free header on target from a distance of eight yards, and Stambaugh was again at full stretch to save an excellent long range effort from Maite Oroz.
The Spanish superiority provided everything but the lead, and after another goal-bound Guijarro effort was denied - this time by Hana Takahashi's leg in the 35th minute - their inability to capitalise on their control was abruptly punished.
Completely against the run of play, Japan burst into a 38th minute lead when a speculative effort from Miyazawa flew above Spanish goalkeeper Catalina Coll and into the net from 25 yards.
The momentum shift was immediate and pronounced, as Japan finished the first half with a surge of positivity which created chances for Takarada and Jun Endo, whose point blank effort was saved by Coll when she had looked odds on to score.
Takarada put Japan into a commanding position when, in the 57th minute, she latched onto Riko Ueki's intelligent lay-off to storm into the penalty area and stroke a delicate side-foot finish across Coll and into the bottom corner for her fifth goal of the tournament.
Japan's early struggles were now a distant memory, and the Asian champions took a giant leap towards becoming world champions when Nagano thumped home a masterful curling effort after being supplied by Takarada in the 64th minute.
Spain refused give up the fight, and they found a way back into the game when Andujar found space in the penalty area and carefully volleyed the ball home in the 71st minute.
The back-to-back European champions had little margin for error, but when FC Barcelona's Claudia Pina rattled the crossbar just two minutes later it became clear that Japan's task wasn't yet complete.
But as the time ticked away, the glimmer of Spanish hope faded, and, with Honoka Hayashi and Endo both going desperately close to adding a fourth, Japan finished the match with a flourish which underlined their status as worthy world champions.
Excluding their 1-0 group stage defeat against Spain, Japan won every match in France, defeating the United States, Paraguay, Germany and England on the road to the final, with strike duo Ueki and Takarada contributing five goals apiece.
Head coach Ikeda has now guided this generation of Japanese talent to Asian and world titles, losing just one of 11 competitive matches since being appointed in 2017.
FIFA U-20 WOMEN'S WORLD CUP FRANCE 2018 AWARDS
Golden Ball: Patricia Guijarro (ESP)
Silver Ball: Saori Takarada (JPN)
Bronze Ball: Moeka Minami (JPN)
Golden Boot: Patricia Guijarro (ESP) 6 goals, 3 assists
Silver Boot: Georgia Stanway (ENG) 6 goals, 0 assists
Bronze Boot: Saori Takarada (JPN) 5 goals, 3 assists
Golden Glove: Sandy MacIver (ENG)
Fair Play: Japan
Photos: FIFA via Getty Images