WELLINGTON - Mina Tanaka bagged a first-half hat trick to spearhead Japan to a 3-1 victory over New Zealand in a friendly on Sunday.
Nadeshiko Japan, currently 11th in the FIFA rankings, dominated possession against the 20th-ranked Football Ferns, who adopted a heavily defensive strategy from the outset.
The match was Japan’s first since winning the Asian Cup in Jordan in April, with head coach Asako Takakura and her players using the friendly as preparation for next year’s World Cup in France.
“Although we only had a short time to prepare, everyone on the team was able to focus and get the win, which was a good end to the camp,” captain Saki Kumagai said.
Tanaka put the visitors ahead after 17 minutes at Westpac Stadium with a deflected shot that looped past New Zealand goalkeeper Erin Naylor.
Meikayla Moore equalized for the home side a minute later following a corner kick, but Japan took the lead again in the 34th minute, with Rin Sumida providing an assist for Tanaka. The 24-year-old forward completed her hat trick one minute before halftime.
According to New Zealand online news outlet Stuff, the match set a domestic women’s soccer attendance record, with 7,236 on hand to watch the friendly.