Spain Beats Hosts France to Book Final Clash with Japan

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UNDER-20 WOMEN’S WORLD CUP

Spain got a second-half winner from Patri Guijarro Monday to defeat hosts France 1-0 and advance to the final of the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup 2018. This despite La Rojita playing the final quarter of Monday’s semi-final with ten players.

In front of a passionate crowd at the Stade de la Rabine in Vannes, both sides contributed to a hard-fought encounter, with chances traded at both ends in the first half. Guijarro and captain Maite Oroz missed the target with opportunities for Spain, while at the other end, Emelyne Laurent and Helene Fercocq forced saves from Spain goalkeeper Catalina Coll.

Five minutes before the break, Spain midfielder Damaris Egurrola forced a goalline clearance from France left-back Selma Bacha to keep the scoreline goalless at half-time.

The match came to life in the second half, with the European U-19 champions taking the lead following a throw-in deep in the France half on 51 minutes. Lucia Rodriguez’s cross from the right found the head of Guijarro, who nodded home for her tournament-leading sixth goal of France 2018.

The goal raised the tempo of this semi-final contest even further, with the first red card of the competition coming just past the midway point of the second half. Spain’s Aitana Bonmati was shown a second yellow card for her challenge on Bacha at the halfway line.

France then had a glorious chance to level matters when they were awarded a penalty with 15 minutes remaining after Spain centre-back Laia Aleixandri was adjudged to have handled the ball in her own box. Marie-Antoinette Katoto took the spot-kick for Les Bleuettes, but Coll did brilliantly to deny her.

Seeking an equaliser, France used the extra player to press Spain hard in the final stages, but La Rojita withstood all that the hosts could throw at them, as Pedro Lopez’s side reached their maiden U-20 Women’s World Cup final, where they will face Japan in Vannes on Friday evening.

France, meanwhile, face England in the match for third place in Vannes on Friday afternoon.

In the other semi final, first-half goals by Riko Ueki and Jun Endo earned Japan a 2-0 victory over England and the ticket to the final.

On a sunny afternoon at the Stade de la Rabine, it was the Young Nadeshiko that put in an impressive first-half display, despite England’s Chloe Kelly creating the first chance of the match that Japan goalkeeper Hannah Stambaugh did well to save after just two minutes.

It proved the best opportunity of the first half for Mo Marley’s side, as Japan then took control of the contest. Following chances from Endo and Saori Takarada, Ueki scored her fifth goal of France 2018 with a low right-footed shot after turning past England defender Anna Patten in the opposition’s box on 22 minutes.

Japan then doubled their lead five minutes later, as Endo scored her second goal in as many games when she headed into an empty net on the rebound after Hinata Miyazawa powered a fine strike off the England crossbar.

The Young Nadeshiko were then unlucky not to extend their lead further on 34 minutes after Fuka Nagano hit the post with a curling finish from close range.

England’s efforts to get back into the match proved a frustrating cause for the Young Lionesses, as Japan’s organisation and work rate to close them down proved telling to the outcome of this semi-final clash. A powerful Georgia Stanway strike was England’s best chance after the break.

Victory for Futoshi Ikeda’s side ensures Japan’s maiden appearance in the final of this competition.