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Hayashi’s stunner lifts Japan past USWNT in U-20 World Cup opener

Honoka Hayashi’s second-half goal from nearly 40 yards out lifted Japan past the United States, 1-0 in each team’s opening game at the U-20 Women’s World Cup in France on Monday.

Hayashi’s left-footed strike came in the 76th minute after a series of missed tackles by the U.S. in the middle of the park. The ball sailed over the head of U.S. goalkeeper Laurel Ivory, clipped the underside of the crossbar and went in.

Japan looked the more dangerous team inside the 18 on Monday, with the Nadeshiko taking claim to the best scoring opportunity of the first half. Saori Takarada’s header in the 30th minute hit the crossbar flush and, after momentary mayhem, her follow-up effort was tip-saved straight up into the air by Ivory. Takarada appeared to score on a second follow-up, but was whistled for a foul as she slammed into Ivory, whose face hit off the post as the ball went in.

The U.S. had the better of first-half play between 18-yard boxes, but had little to show for it by way of legitimate scoring opportunities. The Americans ended the half — and the match — with 56 percent of possession and had more actual playing time on the ball over the full 90 — 29 minutes to Japan’s 23 minutes.

Each team returns to action on Thursday, when Japan faces UEFA U-19 champion Spain and the U.S. faces Paraguay in what will be a must-win and, likely, a game which the U.S. will need to try to run up the score for potential tie-breakers. Spain defeated Paraguay, 4-1 earlier Monday in Group C action.

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