Quarter-Final: New Zealand 1 (4) - 1 (3) Japan (NZL: Amelia Abbott 17'; JPN: Hannah Mackay-Wright 31' (OG))
The 2018 FIFA under-17 World Cup is all set to receive a new champion after 2014 title holders Japan lost out to New Zealand on penalties at the Estadio Profesor Alberto Suppici in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay.
New Zealand created history after qualifying for the semi-finals which represent a first for the country at all levels.
New Zealand‘s head coach Leon Birnie looked delighted after the Young Little Ferns produced a clinical finish on the field after working it down at the training ground. Following a corner, Amelia Abbott hit a crisp shot to find the net after a couple of New Zealand players deliberately left the ball.
Maggie Jenkins could have doubled the lead for New Zealand after her shot rattled off the crossbar.
In search of an equalizer, Yuzuki Yamamoto ventured forward and reeled off an initial shot which got blocked by the Japanese goalkeeper Shu Ohba. The follow-up effort came from Haruka Osawa. Hannah Mackay-Wright intercepted the ball on the line but unfortunately lost her balance as the ball struck her leg and dribbled into the goal.
In the Second half, New Zealand goalkeeper Anna Leat competently handled a spectacular strike from Momo Nakao with a diving save.
As both teams could not force a result, the match moved into penalties with Leat pursuing the excellent work to save the first spot-kick from Japan.
Starting off, Momoka Kinoshita drove Japan’s second attempt to the bottom right corner, while Grace Wisnewski thrashed the ball into the top right corner.
Then, Chihiro Tomioka sent the ball way wide of the left goal post as New Zealand strengthened their stand when Kelli Brown’s right-footed strike went past the feeble left hand of the Japanese goalkeeper Shu Ohba.
Chiina Kamiya then sent the New Zealand goaltender Anna Leat the wrong way to keep Japan in the hunt. Jayda Stewart could and should have won the game for the Young Little Ferns, but she scuffed her shot over the crossbar.
With Warai Yoshizumi‘s powerful drive to the left corner got past Anna Leat to keep Japan in with a slender chance.
However, Anna Leat stepped up to take the decisive kick and slotted the ball towards the left corner to seal the victory for New Zealand. Her impressive performance won her the player of the match award.
Little Nadeshiko‘s managed four of their 13 shots on the mark while five of their efforts got blocked off by a resolute New Zealand defense. The Young Little Ferns landed two shots on target from their seven attempts with one denied by the woodwork. Japan though enjoyed a lion‘s share commanding 63% of the ball possession.
New Zealand will face Spain in the semi-finals on Wednesday, 28th November at the Estadio Charrua in Montevideo, Uruguay.
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