Young Football Ferns go down fighting

A brace of second half goals from substitute Yui Hasegawa and a penalty by Risa Sumida in stoppage time proved enough for Japan who, like Mexico four days earlier, found it tough to find a way past outstanding goalkeeper Lily Alfeld.
One of the pre-tournament favourites, Japan made five changes to the starting line up who destroyed Brazil 5-0, showcasing their depth at international level. The Asian side dominated possession for long periods of the match and dictated the tempo as they virtually assured their progress to the quarter finals.
The Japan result, combined with Brazil defeating Mexico 1-0 in the earlier match at 8km Stadium in Baku, means the Young Football Ferns chances to advance are all but gone. Mathematically, New Zealand can still qualify but will need Japan to continue their winning ways over Mexico, and secure their own victory over Brazil by two clear goals in the final Group C match on Sunday.
Once again, New Zealand had Alfeld to thank that the defeat was not heavier after the Christchurch-based custodian produced another fine display in the Young Football Ferns goal.
Twice she denied Hina Sugita in the first half, tipping over spectacularly just before the half-hour mark and then scrambling at the back post a few minutes later to push a header wide to ensure the teams entered the break scoreless.
Alfeld was finally beaten on the hour when New Zealand half cleared Japan’s seventh corner of the match into the path of Hasegawa, who rifled home a left-foot drive from the edge of the area. Eighteen minutes later, it was a right-footed strike from the same player, this time further out, that whistled past Alfeld to put the match out of reach for the young New Zealanders.
Megan Lee conceded a heartbreaking penalty in stoppage time and Alfeld guessed the right way but Sumida had put enough power on the spot kick to still find the net.
In the past 18 months, Japan has claimed the FIFA Women’s World Cup title as well as a silver medal at the recently-completed Olympic Games. Throw in a third place finish at the FIFA U-20 World Cup on home soil last month and their pedigree is obvious.
CJ Bott returned from an ankle injury to captain the Young Football Ferns and restore Temple’s first choice back four, but unfortunately they lost influential left back Laura Merrin to a shoulder injury in the first half and the news is not good for the defender.
The Young Football Ferns final Group C match is against Brazil on Sunday, with Japan facing Mexico at the same time across town.
FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Azerbaijan 2012
New Zealand 0
Japan 3 (Yui HASEGAWA 60’, 78’; Risa SUMIDA 90’+3 pen)
Halftime: 0-0
8km Stadium, Baku
New Zealand: 1-Lily ALFELD (gk), 2-Meikayla MOORE, 3-Laura MERRIN (9-Martine PUKETAPU 38’), 4-CJ BOTT (c), 5-Emily JENSEN, 6-Hannah CARLSEN, 7-Jasmine PEREIRA, 8-Daisy CLEVERLEY, 10-Emma FLETCHER (17-Emily OOSTERHOF 84’), 13-Megan LEE, 18-Emma ROLSTON (15-Lauren DABNER 79’)
Substitutes not used: 11-Briar PALMER, 12-Megan ROBERTSON, 14-Jessica INNES, 19-Tayla CHRISTENSEN, 20-Emma TAYLOR (gk), 21-Courteney VAN LIESHOUT
Injured: 16-Ronisa LIPI (gk)
Coach: Paul TEMPLE
Japan: 12-Chika HIRAO (gk), 2-Saki ISHII, 4-Ruka NORIMATSU, 7-Hina SUGITA (6-Mizuki NAKAMURA 68’), 8-Miki ITO (17-Yui HASEGAWA 46’), 9-Yui NARUMIYA (c), 10-Rika MASUYA (20-Akari SHIRAKI 84’), 11-Rin SUMIDA, 13-Risa SUMIDA, 14-Arisa MATSUBARA, 18-Yuka MOMIKI
Substitutes not used: 1-Nene INOUE (gk), 3-Shiori MIYAKE, 5-Miho MANYA, , 15-Miku KOJIMA, 16-Ayaka INOUE, 19-Ayaka NISHIKAWA, 21-Eri KOTAKA (gk)
Coach: Hiroshi YOSHIDA
Story courtesy of New Zealand Football.
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