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Japan reaches Women’s Under-20 World Cup quarters

Kyodo

Yoko Tanaka scored on a pair of mirror-image free kicks to lead Japan’s Young Nadeshiko into the quarterfinals of the Women’s Under-20 World Cup as winners of Group A with a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Switzerland on Sunday.

Japan will now take on Asian rival South Korea on Thursday in what is sure to be a highly charged match. Mexico also advanced from Group A as runnerup and will face Group B winner Nigeria, also on Thursday.

“It’s Japan-South Korea, so you know our hearts will be pounding with the excitement,” said Tanaka, who had four goals in the group stage. “We were able to play our game, and because we won that way — in our style — we have some momentum going into the next round. We’re only thinking of winning it all.”

Tanaka scored from a pair of 20-meter free kicks, the first with her right foot and the second with her left, with both curling in at the near post against Swiss keeper Nadine Boeni at National Stadium.

The tournament hosts made it 3-0 in the 52nd minute on a scintillating goal by Asuka Nishikawa and sealed the deal in the 84th minute on Hikaru Naomoto’s penalty after she was brought down in front of the goal by Boeni.

The Swiss keeper was responsible for keeping the game respectable as the Japanese repeatedly found themselves in space in front of goal. Boeni, however, repeatedly challenged onrushing attackers, beating them to the ball and saving the day.

With Japan ending nearly every Swiss possession before it started and launching speedy counters, Boeni was under siege all night, but it took 30 minutes before a penalty just outside the area gave Tanaka her first free kick from the left side. Two minutes after the break Tanaka teed one up from the right, and this one curled off her right foot as Boeni once more dived in vain.

Mexico, needing a win to get past New Zealand, poured it on with four second-half goals in a 4-0 win.

Earlier, Francisca Ordega scored a hat-trick as Nigeria powered to the top of Group B with a 4-0 thrashing of Italy. South Korea also advanced from the group in second place courtesy of a 2-0 win over Brazil.

The group stage will wrap up on Monday with the final games in Groups C and D.

In Group C, North Korea’s six points and enormous plus-11 goal difference after its 9-0 rout of Argentina, means it is virtually through to the next round ahead of its final game against Canada. Norway, equal with Canada on three points but trailing on goal difference, plays winless Argentina.

Germany enters its final Group D game against the United States having already qualified for the quarterfinals. The Americans, with one win and one draw, will need a draw against Germany to guarantee a spot in the next round. Even a loss, however, may be good enough unless China can run up a big score against winless Ghana.