Japan won its first-ever U-17 Women’s World Cup on Friday with a 2-0 victory over Spain.
Meika Nishida opened the scoring in the 5th minute on a rebound after Spanish goalkeeper Elena de Toro pushed an initial shot off the crossbar to get Japan off to a strong start.
Fuka Kono entered the game in the 61st minute and scored 17 minutes later to clinch the victory for Japan with a calm finish from close range. Mizuki Saihara nearly added a third goal for Japan in the 86th minute, but saw her close-range shot hit the crossbar.
Japan, who finished second in 2010 but did not reach the podium two years ago, scored 23 goals in six games at the tournament, conceding just one goal — a stoppage time consolation goal to Venezuela in the semifinal. That earned Japanese goalkeeper Mamiko Matsumoto the Golden Gloves as the tournament’s best goalkeeper.
But Japan’s Hina Sugita was the star of the tournament, winning the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player and the bronze boot as the third-leading scorer. Venezuela’s Gabriela Garcia and 14-year-old Deyna Castellanos tied for the Golden Boot with six goals apiece.
Venezuela was the Cinderella story of the 2014 FIFA Women’s World Cup, finishing fourth after a thrilling third-place match saw Italy prevail on penalty kicks after a 4-4 draw in regulation that included a 95th minute equalizer for Venezuela.
Japan became the third Asian side to win the U-17 Women’s World Cup since the tournament began in 2008. North Korea won that initial U-17 Women’s World Cup, followed by South Korea reigning in 2010 and France winning the 2012 edition.
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