Dangerous, impressive counterattacking football from a well-organised Japanese side sees them win their group. An opening early goal from Miyazawa established their dominance before she got her second, in addition to excellent goals from Ueki and Tanaka.
A steady start to the fixture began with Spain confidently playing their familiar possessional football, looking to maintain their position at the top of group C. Playing in a compact manner, Japan were comfortably able to deal with any threat of Spain getting into the attacking third.
To bring Japan an early lead, a ball picked up on the left wing by Endo was beautifully placed ahead of Miyazawa, who made an intelligent run through the Spanish backline and with a left-footed strike, beat goalkeeper Rodriguez to make it 1-0. A nicely worked counterattack, which easily broke down the Spanish defence.
An organised, deep Japanese defence made it challenging for Spain to break down, in limiting the space that the reds could play into. The team struggled, despite their attempts to pick up the tempo.
An extend to Japan’s lead shortly followed, in a fantastic counterattack. Picking up the ball in midfield Miyazawa fiercely drove forward into Spain’s defensive third and picked out Ueki to her left; shifting onto her right foot, her strike was deflected by Paredes and the bounce was too much for Rodriguez to handle as the ball hit the top-left corner. 2-0 Japan.
Looking to fight back, Spain attempted to reorganise with star player Alexia Putellas shifted into a more central position. Their best chance of the first half stemmed from making use of the wide areas, with right-back Batlle pushing up the pitch. A cross in from the right reached Hermoso at the back post, who headed the ball just high above the crossbar. Looking to get back into this game, Spain moved up the pitch with a high press in attempt to break down this tightly organised Japanese side.
However, it wasn’t long until Japan fired home again; tactical excellence as Japan capitalised on the counter once more. A ball won back deep in midfield was passed onto Ueki, who advanced up the pitch and timed a perfect pass ahead of Miyazawa. Charging into the box, the forward launched an excellent strike above Rodriguez to make it 3-0 to Japan, with her second goal.
Going into halftime, it was 45 minutes of struggle from a Spanish side who have previously impressed in this tournament; all credit to a tactically excellent Japanese side. Being intelligently defensively organised, Spain were unable to open up the tight spaces between Japan’s defensive line and struggled to break this down. Japan have been clinical in their counter attacks, with 3 goals from 3 shots on target.
A chance for Spain in the early part of the second half, as Batlle cut in from out wide to beat the defender. Her shot found itself wide of the far post, unable to make anything of the rare opportunity that Spain had in this game. The team attempted a higher press in the second half, looked to make something of this game and get themselves back into it. Having looked more positive in trying to achieve this, with different ways to advance higher up in the pitch – with long balls, utilising wide areas and quick passes through the midfield - they ultimately were unable to break down Japan’s effective compact defence.
Still looking fierce of the counter, Japan finished off their game by making it 4. Picking up a well-delivered ball on the right-wing, Tanaka weaved through the Spanish defence with clever feet. In space she shifted the ball onto her left and struck a brilliant ball which hit the top-left corner.
Japan’s powerful, impressive, and brilliantly composed performance sees them winner of group C, after winning all 3 of their group games in style. They will face Norway in the round of 16 on Saturday 5th August. Spain advance to the round of 16, as they place second of the group, facing Switzerland on Saturday 5th August.