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Hinata Miyazawa 11', 39',Riko Ueki 28',Mina Tanaka 81'
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Spain lose 4-0 to Japan in Women’s World Cup Group C; Vilda takes the blame

Japan shocked a lacklustre Spain side who dominated the ball but had no attacking bite.

Japan shocked a lacklustre Spain side who dominated the ball but had no attacking bite.
Japan shocked a lacklustre Spain side who dominated the ball but had no attacking bite.RITCHIE B. TONGOEFE

Spain’s shocking 4-0 loss to Japan in the final game of Group C will go down as one of the all-time results of the tournament. The Asians are becoming the surprise performers of the early rounds: the Japan that ‘was not the same as before’ and ‘likely to get out of the group but not much else’ are now having their pre-World Cup biographies hastily rewritten. Jorge Vilda’s side go through to the next round second in the group and with Switzerland on the horizon; but first, a clean up job is needed to pick the ragged red shirts off the floor.

Sometimes the sole goal against after a performance characterised by long spells of possession, pass after pass, tick after tock of the clock, thud after thud as the ball, can be written off as a ‘one off’. Any team can counter attack and catch their opponent on the break, a single slip of a mind so used to having the ball can easily occur when it’s not at your feet.

But what happens when it’s not one goal, but four?

Spain were thrashed 4-0 by a Japan side who hunted them to perfection.
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Spain were thrashed 4-0 by a Japan side who hunted them to perfection.RITCHIE B. TONGOEFE

Aitana: ‘Japan surprised me’

Spain huffed and puffed as passes through the lines were returned to their original location, crosses were headed back from where they came and shots were saved, blocked and sent wide. Meanwhile, Japan sat still in a crouched position, legs spring-loaded like 11 chameleon tongues, hidden and ready to fire. And when they did, they hit their target. “Japan knew what they were doing”, said Aitana in the post-game: “they killed us on the counter-attacks. Every counter was half a goal.”

Japans first goal came just ten minutes in after a break down the left was sent centrally, Endo’s ball curving like a crescent moon behind the backtracking Spain defence for Miyazawa to latch onto and send the crowd into disbelief as she thundered a ferocious strike past Misa from the penalty spot.

A gap of twenty minutes was filled by Spain’s incessant probing before Japan’s blue fighter jets struck again, this time through the middle, with Spain’s defence twisting and turning as Japan’s 4-D attack created dimensions visible beyond normal human senses. Irene Paredes got a foot on the shot from Ueki inside the box, but the subsequent bounce only served to send the ball over Misa and give Spain the message that it was not going to be their day.

Japan’s plan worked to perfection

It seems cheap and reductionist to simple revert to the beginning of my previous paragraph, but 10 minutes went by of Spain knocking on doors sealed shut as Japan held strong in a 3-4-3 system that neutralised any wide threat posed by Vilda’s setup - then they struck again. Miyazawa got her second as she broke in behind the huge gap left by Olga - one that Rocío could not track back quickly enough to fill - and smashed into the top corner.

The final goal, with 8 minutes to go, was arguably the most aesthetically pleasing strike, a far-post curling effort from Tanaka who celebrated as though she hadn’t realised three previous strikes from Japan had already given her side a comfortable advantage - but she had every right to go wild. A quick step-over upon entry into the box from that space again behind Olga opened up a slice of light to the right of Irene Paredes which Tanaka stepped into before sending Misa on a token effort to stop the shot that was going nowhere except into the history books for Japan. Four lightning fast attacks, four superb strikes, and four huge video analysis sessions for the team tipped by many to win the World Cup.

Jorge Vilda analysed the game saying "they anticipated things more quickly than we did."
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Jorge Vilda analysed the game saying "they anticipated things more quickly than we did."RITCHIE B. TONGOEFE

Vilda takes the blame away from his players

We weren’t at the level. I’m responsible”, said Jorge Vilda as he faced the press, the stadium-wide look of disbelief also strewn across his face. “I’m convinced that the team’s anger will turn into a desire to take on the next round. It’s time to digest the defeat and prepare the quarter finals. I’m convinced that we’ll go out against Switzerland and give everything. It’s normal to be angry.”

Sometimes the crowd noise as the first shocking goal goes in is different to the last: the result-focussed stress screams become disorganised cackles of laughter and sheer disbelief. As for Japan, they were all equally are measured, and Aitana said it post-game: Futoshi Ikeda’s side knew exactly what they were doing and they are here to stay.

  • 1 Ayaka Yamashita
  • 3 Moeka Minami
  • 12 Hana Takahashi
  • 4 Saki Kumagai
  • 16 Honoka Hayashi
  • 10 Fuka Nagano (58')
  • 2 Risa Shimizu (58')
  • 13 Jun Endo (84')
  • 7 Hinata Miyazawa x2(45')
  • 8 Hikaru Naomoto
  • 9 Riko Ueki (67')
  • Substitutes
  • 21 Chika Hirao
  • 14 Yui Hasegawa (58')
  • 19 Miyabi Moriya (58')
  • 11 Mina Tanaka (67')
  • 18 Momoko Tanaka
  • 23 Rion Ishikawa
  • 22 Remina Chiba
  • 20 Maika Hamano
  • 5 Shiori Miyake
  • 15 Aoba Fujino (45')
  • 6 Hina Sugita (84')
  • 17 Kiko Seike
  • 1 Misa
  • 19 Olga Carmona (45')
  • 20 Rocío Gálvez
  • 4 Irene Paredes
  • 2 Ona Batlle
  • 11 Alexia Putellas (61')
  • 6 Aitana Bonmatí
  • 3 Teresa Abelleira (71')
  • 18 Salma Paralluelo (81')
  • 10 Jenni Hermoso
  • 8 Mariona Caldentey (61')
  • Substitutes
  • 5 Ivana Andrés
  • 17 Alba Redondo (61')
  • 16 María Pérez
  • 23 Cata Coll
  • 21 Claudia Zornoza (71')
  • 22 Athenea del Castillo
  • 9 Esther González (81')
  • 15 Eva Navarro (61')
  • 14 Laia Codina
  • 13 Enith Salón
  • 12 Oihane Hernández (45')
  • 7 Irene Guerrero


Aoba Fujino (45', Hinata Miyazawa), Oihane Hernández (45', Olga Carmona), Yui Hasegawa (58', Fuka Nagano), Miyabi Moriya (58', Risa Shimizu), Alba Redondo (61', Alexia Putellas), Eva Navarro (61', Mariona Caldentey), Mina Tanaka (67', Riko Ueki), Claudia Zornoza (71', Teresa Abelleira), Esther González (81', Salma Paralluelo), Hina Sugita (84', Jun Endo)


1-0, 11': Hinata Miyazawa, 2-0, 28': Riko Ueki, 3-0, 39': Hinata Miyazawa, 4-0, 81': Mina Tanaka


Referee: Katja Koroleva
VAR Referee: Drew Fischer, Armando Villarreal
Olga Carmona (45',Yellow) Oihane Hernández (88',Yellow)

Group C Pts. P W D L
1 9 3 3 0 0
2 6 3 2 0 1
3 3 3 1 0 2
4 0 3 0 0 3
Group C Pts. P W D L
1 9 3 3 0 0
2 6 3 2 0 1
3 3 3 1 0 2
4 0 3 0 0 3

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