Hosts Japan concluded the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup on Saturday with a 2-1 victory over Nigeria’s Falconets to claim the bronze medal. Goals in either half from Yoko Tanaka and Asuka Nishikawa saw Japan claim a deserved win in front of a buoyant and colourful crowd at the National Stadium in Tokyo.
The Nigerian side started well, with Desire Oparanozie’s free-kick from the left flank evading everyone early on, including goalkeeper Sakiko Ikeda, only to ricochet off the far post and away to safety. However, it was to be the closest the Africans came to getting on the scoresheet in the opening period.
Midway through the first half Japan opened the scoring as Tanaka let fly from distance with the ball proving too hot for Ibubeleye Whyte. The Nigerian custodian was unable to prevent the ball entering the goal, despite getting a hand on the effort. It was Tanaka’s sixth of the competition. Despite Nigeria having more possession in the opening period, it was the home girls who had much of the momentum as the half-time whistle blew.
Five minutes after the interval Japan doubled their advantage as first-half substitute Hanae Shibata sped past several defenders just outside the penalty area, before teeing up Nishikawa with a slick short pass with the finish equally sharp. Japan missed an opportunity to seal the match just past the hour mark, with the ball narrowly missing two attackers and hitting the far post. Falconets then collected a lifeline on 73 minutes, as Oparanozie’s free-kick slipped through the hands of Ikeda and over the line, although it should been a regulation stop for the Japan keeper. They turned up the heat on the Japan defence in the latter stages, but the home side managed to hang on for third place; their best ever showing at a FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.