Two goals in each half lifted Japan into their second FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup final in three editions with a classy performance to record a 4-1 win over semi-final debutants Venezuela.
The match followed a familiar formula for both these teams with Japan dominating in the possession stakes and Venezuela constantly looking for quick balls to their powerful forward line.
Japan immediately found their trademark rhythm and were rewarded on 13 minutes when midfielder Fuka Nagano profited from a smart lay-off to fire in a sweet low strike from 25 yards which went past the outstretched hand of goalkeeper Franyely Rodriguez.
There was disaster for Venezuela 20 minutes later when a low free-kick from the sideline somehow avoided a sea of legs in a packed penalty area for an easy back-post tap-in by Nana Ichise.
It could have been three in the shadows of half-time when midfielder Shiho Matsubara fired on target from 15 metres but Franyely Rodriguez expertly finger-tipped onto the crossbar.
The match was virtually over as a contest within minutes of the restart as Yui Hasegawa fired in a wonderful cross from the right which Rikako Kobayashi expertly turned in from close range for an impressive goal.
Japan’s goal was nearly breached for the first time at Costa Rica 2014 in unusual circumstances with a wild long-range shot from Venezuela’s Daniuska Rodriguez set to creep under the crossbar only for Mamiko Matsumoto to make a rare but excellent save.
There was, however, to be a fourth goal just past the hour mark with Hina Sugita brought down as she prepared to pull the trigger with the captain coolly converting the spot-kick.
There was a further narrow miss for Hasegawa and also substitute Mizuki Saihara as Venezuela continued to feel the pressure.
However, it was Venezuela that secured the last goal of the match as tournament top-scorer Deyna Castellanos powered in a fine injury-time header from Gabriela Garcia’s short cross as Japan conceded their first of the tournament.
The pair had each been on a four-match winning streak prior to the contest with Japan now becoming the first team to win five in succession at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.
Live Your Goals Player of the Match: Yui Hasegawa (Japan)