An outstanding Germany side proved too strong for the Young Nadeshiko as they scored three goals without reply in the semi-final of the Under-20 Women’s World Cup, Japan suffering the worst possible start as they conceded inside the first minute. Hikaru Naomoto, surrounded by Kathrin Hendrich, Nicole Rolser and Lena Lotzen close to the left touchline was forced to relinquish possession, and Dzsenifer Marozsán’s superb close control enable her to evade the attentions of Nozomi Fujita before playing a wonderful through-ball for Melanie Leupolz to slot past Sakiko Ikeda.
Against a side which has readily capitalised on mistakes made by their opponents during this tournament, Japan could ill afford the sort of basic errors which led to Germany scoring their second and third goals with only twenty minutes elapsed in the match.
Defender Leonie Maier swivelled on halfway and hit a long, hopeful pass towards Japan’s penalty area. Shiori Kinoshita misjudged the flight of the ball and failed to connect properly with her clearing header, allowing Marozsán, once more showing excellent technique, to lob the advancing Ikeda.
With referee Lucila Venegas showing little interest in attempting to correct an at times overly-aggressive approach taken by the reigning Under-20 World Cup holders, Japan were poorly matched physically, and the third goal put the result beyond doubt. At a outswinging corner delivered from the right both Hikari Takagi and Kinoshita were drawn to the ball and the the dangerous Luisa Wensing, but neither were alert to the presence of Lena Lotzen, and unmarked she headed her sixth goal of the competition.
The addition of Kumi Yokoyama and Ayaka Michigami contributed to a more evenly-matched second period, but an exceptional German rearguard provided further evidence of why it is yet to breached, limiting Japan largely to half-chances and setting a tournament record for the most minutes played without conceding a goal. It will come as little surprise if Germany repeat their 3-0 Group D victory over the United States when they meet again in the final.
Japan will face Nigeria in the Third Place play-off, to be played at the National Olympic Stadium on 8 September, kick-off 15:30 JST.
(Match played 4 September 2012)