- SOCCER WORLD CUP
(UPDATE 2) Spotless Nadeshiko Japan Advance to Knockout Stage
14:40 JST, July 26, 2023
Nadeshiko Japan performed as expected, then had to wait a couple of hours to find out they had advanced to the knockout stage with a match to spare at the Women’s World Cup.
First-half goals from Hikaru Naomoto and Aoba Fujino two minutes apart settled the match for Japan’s national team against a defensive Costa Rica side on Wednesday in a 2-0 victory at Dunedin Stadium. Later in the day, Spain defeated Zambia 5-0 in Eden Park in Auckland to give the Spaniards and Nadeshiko tickets to the round of 16.
This is the fourth consecutive time for Nadeshiko to advance out of the group stage at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Japan had defeated Zambia 5-0 in its first group stage match, while Spain had won 3-0 against Costa Rica in its opening match. Together with Wednesday’s results, it means Costa Rica and Zambia are eliminated while Japan and Spain are level on six points in Group C. Spain currently tops the group on goal difference.
In Dunedin, player of the match Naomoto, 29, opened the scoring in the 25th minute. Coming down the left, her powerful left-footed shot could not be stopped by Costa Rica goalkeeper Daniela Solera.
Riding the momentum, 19-year-old Fujino showed her budding talent with a deftly taken individual strike in the 27th minute. With the goal, Fujino became the first teenager to score for Nadeshiko in a Women’s World Cup.
Naomoto and Fujino are listed as midfielders, but both played up-front with striker Mina Tanaka, as Japan deployed a 3-4-3 formation to break down the Costa Ricans, known for their defense.
Nadeshiko, which won the Women’s World Cup in 2011, are ranked 11th in the world, while Costa Rica is 36th.
Japan’s final match in Group C is against Spain on Monday in New Zealand’s capital at Wellington Regional Stadium. If Nadeshiko win, they will top the group and avoid another group winner in the knockout stage of the tournament being jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
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