Japan cruised by previously undefeated Venezuela, 4-1, in the first semifinal of the Under-17 Women’s World Cup on Monday evening. Later that night, Spain scored on two penalty kicks to dispose of Italy, 2-0. And now the final is set for the first-ever FIFA World Cup championship hosted in Costa Rica.
Japan and Spain will face off in the title game Friday at 5 p.m. in the National Stadium in west San José. Venezuela and Italy play for third place at 2 p.m. in the stadium. If you would like to see a World Cup title match, tickets are available through FIFA’s website, and cost as little as $6.
Both semifinal matches Monday took place at a sold-out Edgardo Baltodano Briceño Stadium in Liberia, the capital of the northwest province of Guanacaste.
Japan hasn’t lost a match the entire tournament. And with the team’s thrashing of Venezuela, the Japanese should be heavy favorites against the Spanish.
In fact, the Japanese have hardly been challenged by an opponent thus far. The country has already beat Spain once, during the tournament’s group stage. Granted, Spain has at least had one of the tighter matches against Japan — losing, 2-0, in the teams’ World Cup opener.
After the win over Spain, Japan smashed Paraguay (10-0) and New Zealand (3-0) in the group stage and defeated Mexico, 2-0, in the quarterfinals. Japan had not conceded a goal all tournament until Venezuela scored in injury time in the 92nd minute of the semifinal.
Japan led 4-0 at that point, but the goal ended the squad’s impressive shutout streak. The country had gone 487 minutes without allowing a goal during the World Cup.
Spain has looked almost as remarkable as Japan during its own tournament run. Following the loss to Japan in the opener, Spain walloped New Zealand (3-0) and Paraguay (7-1). The squad won its quarterfinals match, 3-0, over Nigeria.
In the fourth edition of the Under-17 Women’s World Cup, both countries will be looking for their first championship. Japan lost to South Korea in the championship of the 2010 edition in Trinidad and Tobago. Spain’s best finish also came in 2010 when the team finished third.
These countries are no strangers to World Cup success at the senior level of the tournament. Spain’s men’s team will be defending its 2010 World Cup championship this summer. Japan’s national women’s team triumphed in the 2011 World Cup, upsetting the United States in the final.
Before the senior squads can begin their title defenses, the up-and-coming female players from these countries will have their own chance to bring a championship trophy back to their homeland.