Minami: Lifting World Cup the best moment of my life
Vannes: After Japan defeated Spain 3-1 to win the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in France, Moeka Minami revealed her delight at lifting the trophy, labelling it the best moment of her life.
As Young Nadeshiko captain, Minami, 19, had the responsibility of kicking off the celebrations at Stade de la Rabine and the star defender was only too happy to do the honours after being handed the trophy by FIFA President Gianni Infantino.
"We were able to win; I am really happy. It was a long time coming," she said. "The moment I put up the cup, I was most happy in my life."
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Minami, who was awarded the Bronze Ball as the tournament's third best player - and joins Nadeshiko icon Homare Sawa and 2014 U-17 skipper Hina Sugita as World Cup-winning Japanese captains - paid tribute to her side's performance
"Spain had organisational skills and their individual skills were also very high, so I thought that not trailing in the first half would lead to victory," she said.
"(We made) many mistakes in the last match against Spain (a 1-0 defeat), but today I think that Japan had fewer minor mistakes."
Minami also touched on the closeness of the squad under head coach Futoshi Ikeda, who has followed in the footsteps of current Nadeshiko coach Asako Takakura in leading to Japan to a world title at youth level.
"Even if I made a mistake, I fought to the end while communicating with my teammates. It is a team that has worked very hard and had lots of failures, but we talked a lot and talked with each other and came this far."
Now, with the senior World Cup to be held next year and the Olympic Games on home soil in Tokyo in 2020, the Urawa Reds player has her eyes on full international honours.
"I am not satisfied here; I will try my best to win regularly with Urawa in order to achieve a place with Nadeshiko Japan."
While Minami led the way for Japan defensively, striker Saori Takarada (pictured above, No 11) was among a legion of talented Young Nadeshiko attacking players to announce themselves to the world in Brittany.
Takarada scored a superb goal in the final, and, alongside Riko Ueki, was the team's top scorer with five.
But despite her individual heroics, which earned her the Silver Ball for the tournament's second best player, Takarada said Japan's success was down to the hard work of the entire team.
"I am very happy that we won the championship. I think that it was thanks to the whole team that we got the prize,"
"In the first half Spain were able to attack for a long time, but I think that it was good that we could fight for each other while listening to each other (to turn the game around)."
Japan becomes the first nation to win FIFA Women's World Cup titles at all three age groups, following in the footsteps of Japan's senior women's national team in 2011 and U-17 side four years ago.
Photos: FIFA via Getty Images