Two-time champion Germany ended Japan’s bid to reach the Under-20 Women’s World Cup final for the first time with a 3-0 win in Tuesday’s semifinal.
A goal in the opening minute from Melanie Leupolz got the Germans off to a flying start at National Stadium, and it was a blow from which the Young Nadeshiko would not recover as two more from Dzsenifer Marozsan and Lena Lotzen with less than 20 minutes on the clock put the Europeans safely on the road to Saturday’s final.
Germany will play the United States in the title match after the Americans beat Nigeria 2-0 in the day’s earlier semifinal, but Japan manager Hiroshi Yoshida was left to rue his side’s nightmare start having gone on to create the better second-half chances in front of a home crowd of 28,306.
“We wanted to win this game but we weren’t able to do anything at the beginning,” said Yoshida. “We lost the first goal and after that we weren’t able to stay calm. The first goal really shook our confidence, and no one was able to even touch the ball.
“The players were feeling down, but at halftime we said we just had to start again. We had to be confident, but even though we had our moments we weren’t able to take our chances.”
Japan got off to the worst possible start when Leupolz got between Japan’s central defenders to latch onto a slide-rule pass and calmly fire across goalkeeper Sakiko Ikeda for her third goal of the tournament.
Japan reacted with a series of nimble attacks that threatened to find an equalizer, but the hosts were dealt a huge setback when Marozsan doubled Germany’s lead in the 13th minute. The forward rushed through to lift a bouncing through ball over Ikeda with her first touch, and there was nothing the goalkeeper could do as the ball dropped under the crossbar and into the net.
Lotzen then rose unchallenged to power home a header for Germany’s third, prompting Yoshida to reshuffle his pack and replace midfielder Mina Tanaka with Kumi Yokoyama with only 25 minutes gone.
The change allowed Japan to steady the ship until halftime, and the home side returned from the break with renewed purpose as first Asuka Nishikawa then Hanae Shibata went close to pulling a goal back.
But there was to be no way through as Germany held firm to the final whistle, leaving Japan to contest the third-place playoff against Nigeria on Saturday in the undercard before the headline event.
“The players are feeling really down at the moment,” said Yoshida. “Starting tomorrow we have to pick ourselves up and get ready for the next game.”
Goals from Morgan Brian and Kealia Ohai either side of halftime were enough to send the U.S. into the final for a third time, seeing off a determined effort from the previously unbeaten Nigerians in the day’s earlier semifinal.
“I’m exhausted, and I didn’t even do anything,” said U.S. manager Steve Swanson. “We are obviously very happy to be moving on. It was a difficult match physically. It wasn’t pretty at times but getting the first goal was critical. It was a good result for us.
“If we play Japan then it will be quite a treat for their country for their team to do so well, but if it’s Germany then we have had good games against them in the past. We will be ready to play either one. We have played a few games against Germany and we have played against Japan, and we have respect for both.”